When Ishaan was as young as two, he loved horses and trains. And Gourika always loved Hindi films like me. So we would sit together and watch the famous Indian film Sholay, the Indian action film of all times. Well I liked the film always for its story and Amitabh Bachchan and the great romance between Jaya Bhaduri and AB.
Ishaan of course liked the film for two reasons. One it had many horses and the other it had the famous train chase. And that too a black engine with coal being thrown into the boiler. What more could a kid ask for. He watched the film over and over again for almost a year. And another film we watched that time was Spirit. It is about a horse and has hit songs by Bryan Adams. Gourika loved the songs. And Ishaan loved the fact that horses pulled engines back then. Horsepower anyone?
It also had native Americans so we had conversation about why they looked different than the white Americans who were building the train tracks through country.
Gourika got bored of spirit and Sholay and moved on to romance and musicals. So for her we would watch Sharukh Khan and Kajol. Mary Poppins and Sound of Music were very popular in our house too…at that time.
After Ishaan had his fill of Sholay and Spirit, he wanted to know more about engines and trains. So we went to British Council Library, (we have a family membership there) and got several DVDs of documentary films on the Great British Locomotives. He would watch them over and over again. Asking me questions about what fuel was used to run the different types of engines. He would watch Thomas the Tank Engine on TV and we also got several books from stores and library with Engine and Train pictures.
Several mornings for months were spent with Gourika reading from her books and Ishaan seeking out train and engine pictures from the same books for me to copy and draw on blank paper. He liked to watch me draw out the Engines. Then he realised that on one paper we could draw only the engine and he wanted the drawing to be as long as a real train.
So Gourika suggested we paste one paper after another and make a long trail of papers and draw boggies on them too. So that is what I did. For months I would draw engines and boggies. Soon Ishaan could differentiate between coal engines and diesel engines and electric engines. He knew the names of passenger cars, oil tanks, goods van, guard boggy etc.
Gourika during that time was reading a Hindi poem on Train….which had a lovely picture of a train. So Gourika would recite the poem and I would draw the train. Then Ishaan wanted to colour the trains. So Gourika and I took turns to colour long trails of A4 Size papers pasted together, sometimes 5 feet long. He would choose the colours, a different one for each bogie. Soon he knew primary and secondary colours, which Gourika spent getting bored learning in pre-school to be taught by teachers with much hoopla and fanfare!
Then he wanted to colour them himself and slowly realised he did not enjoy colouring so much. So he would pass on that task to Gourika. She on the other hand enjoyed filling colours more than drawing. Soon he was drawing himself. Every now and then he would ask me to paste pages… “mama paper chipka do.” And he would start sketching long trains with engines.
His interest in steam engines led him to ask me questions like… “what else runs on steam?” So I showed him the film Titanic. Which Gourika liked for the romance but soon started not to like it for the sad ending, which led to a deep discussion into death and why people die and how. Gourika asked me do animals die too. So we watched Marley and Me and we all cried our hearts out when the family buried Marley. And Gourika recalled suddenly how our earlier dog Badshah had died when she was four. Then we looked at old photos of her hugging and sleeping with Badshah and her fear of animals went away for good. She now takes care of many puppies and dogs in our neighbourhood and one of her dreams is to open a dog creche!
From the Film Titanic which Ishaan watched over and over again on DVD, then on YouTube, then on Nat Geo, he knew the following facts. Which port and country the ship had sailed from? Which country was its destination? Which ocean was it crossing? How cold was it? He watched graphic representation of the iceberg crash over and over again and started to sketch Titanic and the collision and the famous going down of the ship.
Gourika loved the song of that film and asked for more music tracks on YouTube. That is how she got interested in music on You Tube and learnt to navigate the internet and search for things she wanted to look up.
By then Ishaan also wanted to know about what other kind of ship were there in the world.
So we looked at pictures of sailing ships and modern cruise ships and cargo ships and battle ships. Then I got the kids to watch Pirates of the Caribbean and the great love story with Johnny Depp started. Gourika and Ishaan both wanted to know which other films had Depp starred in so we saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. I talked to them about Roald Dahl and how he had written many books for kids.
Gourika was interested to know which other of his books were made into films. So from BCL we got James and the Giant Peach and Matilda and I read them Mr Fox.
Ishaan by then knew much about New York and England thanks to Titanic and thus began his great love story with the Big Apple and tall buildings and structures. From Statue of Liberty, he wanted to know about other tall structures. So we started to look up Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and talked about that. One day Gourika was watching a Barbie film which has Paris as the backdrop and Ishaan got interested in that film because it had Eiffel Tower in it.
They would both watch the film over and over again. Then we watched another Barbie Film the Three Musketeers. Guess what the draw was. Yes you are right Barbie and French!
I could go on and on… about the connections… one leading to another… and a web of learning happening as easily as breathing.