September 15, 2020 5:00:46 pm
By Asif Upadhye
The world of fiction connects us to what it means to be human. It introduces us to characters, dimensions, stories and rabbit-holes that we otherwise wouldn’t jump into. Looking back at my childhood, I was merely in the 4th Grade when I first got my hands on a second-hand Iron-Man comic book purchased for a few rupees from my local ‘raddiwala’. That’s where my journey into the universe of fiction began.
As a kid, having access to different types of literature opened up my mind to a world of infinite possibilities, because in a fictional world, you are limited only by your own imagination. In real life however, circumstances, expectations and societal standards force kids to answer the all-important question – ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Something that sounds fun when you are five but becomes a painful discussion by the time you turn 15.
When I asked Ada, my nine-year-old this, she quite simply said “Oh, I want to be a dolphin caretaker”. Within the realm of her imagination, she confidently explained that dolphins are the smartest sea creatures, how she wants to be friends with them and most importantly that her goal was to ‘save the species’. Her clear-cut response was clothed with sheer empathy and that made me realise that as a parent, my role is to continually support her dreams and arm her with the ability to imagine infinitely.
On one hand, my generation grew up without the internet and limited television. Back then, conformity was the norm and dreaming about the impossible was often frowned upon. If you consider the way we evaluate success for kids, we are taught to compete for the highest grades, for the highest paying job on campus. But in reality, when we hit the ground running, we are expected to collaborate, work as a team and come up with innovate ways in order to reach both professional and personal goals.
On the other hand, my daughter’s generation is growing up in the lap of technology. Kids today are realising that they don’t always have to be one step ahead, especially since information is accessible online at the click of a button. My goal as a parent is to give her the power to think beyond what is considered ‘normal’, to be a mentor instead of an instructor, explain the ‘why’ and to equip her with the knowledge that she is not defined by simply one career option or by the choices she makes.
In fact, I believe that exploring fiction, creativity and a sense of imagination in childhood helps them foster innovation and risk-taking ability in adulthood. A simple example of this is my daughter’s innate ability to make something ingenious out of scrap. While she too is adapting to the new normal, attending school online and making PowerPoint presentations, she has retained her passion for art and craft. After watching a couple of DIY YouTube videos, she taught herself the intricacies of custom-made stationery, cut open a can of Pringles and made her first bangle-organiser!
This goes to show that when kids are introduced to the ‘power of possibilities’, their perception, adaptability and ability to build emotional resilience will surprise you. Fiction steps in to instil kids with a sense of wonder from books, comics and films and how much stories can teach them about people and culture. My childhood fictional superheroes are now a professional reality. Having a lasting connection with all things fiction, imagining the impossible and harnessing the power to dream has what’s got me to lead a diverse life.
As a father, I try not to pass on my fears to my daughter and teach her about the world in the same way my father taught me about his. Being a Merchant Navy kid, my father used to send me VHS tapes of movies that he enjoyed watching and although we spent much of our time apart, we bonded over our mutual love for films.
Whether it’s exploring the fictional universe though books and movies, or setting up a home Spa Night (complete with a service menu), my daughter and I remain child-like by keeping our ‘pinky promises’ and allowing our imagination to go down rabbit holes where conversations need not make sense.
The bottomline is, we are all worried about who are children will grow up to be, what they will make of themselves and where life will take them. But it is important to remember that fears evolve. And that’s when true freedom of thought and actions steps in!
(The writer is Director & Dark Knight at Never Grow Up & SPRD)
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