It has always been a pleasure for me to get into a conversation with my girls on any given day. The thrill in me multiplies in abundance if they shower me with questions. The 'why's' of yester years were the outcome of their ignorance and the 'why's' of today are the sheer outcome of inquisitiveness. I can classify the difference between the two kinds of whys very vividly of late.
There is a concept called 'bench marks' at school where the teacher supplies a sheet of paper that contains the essentials of all the topics covered in a particular lesson. That sheet is distributed to all children once a lesson has been taught. The duty of the children is to paste the sheet in their notebook and begin colouring each topic in different colours based on their understanding ( red- totally unclear; yellow - somewhat clear; green - very clear). The girls usually enjoy this session mainly because it relates to colouring and secondly, they feel happy because they have understood all that has been taught. But last night, as I was going through Shruthi's science note, I realized that she had left few topics uncoloured. Out of curiosity, I asked her, "Shruthi, why have you left some topics uncoloured?"
"Because I have not understood them", said Shruthi.
I then asked her, "Why don't you use the respective colours based on your understanding?"
Shruthi: I don't want to.
Shruthi: You just explain these concepts and I shall colour them green later.
(My Mind: She feels that it at all she colours, it has to be green.
Probably she is not comfortable in letting the teacher know that she hasn't understood it well)
Me: But why don't you let your teacher know what you have not understood? That will help her explain it to you again.
Shruthi: The problem is not with the teacher. I have not understood. Just clarify some topics and I will be done.
Me: Ok. Just let me know what the topic is all about.
Shruthi: Oviparous and Viviparous.
Me: What is the complication with that? It is simple. Oviparous refers to beings that lay eggs which then thurn to a young one and Viviparous refers to those beings that give birth directly. All birds fall under the category of oviparous and all animals and human beings belong to the category of viviparous.
Shruthi: Oh yeah, I know all these. What I do not know is how can one give birth directly? In oviparous, it is said that birds lay eggs. How does that process takes place? In viviparous, it is said that the young ones are developed within the mother's body and stays there until full development and then comes out. How can an animal carry another animal within it? How will it carry? How long can it carry? Will it not feel heavy? And how can it come out?
At that moment, I really wondered at my child's innocent question. Should I still call it innocent? Most people will call this ignorance because they are no longer a small kid. They would soon be turning nine. It is a misfortune that they have not seen any pregnant women in their life so far, leave alone pregnant animals. So they have the least clue regarding the mystery of birth. I thought it the right time to explain some concepts to them to clarify their doubt. As I began thinking, Swathi too joined the conversation. Maybe she too had the same doubt buried in her. I began, "Birds will be urged to throw down an egg through an opening in its body. They release it out. They know for a fact that their baby will come out of it in some time. God had given them such power to know things without being taught. The Mother incubates it by sitting on the egg."
Shruthi: Will not the egg break if the Mother sits over it?
Me: No. The Mother would not stand or jump over it. She just mildly sits over it to give the egg the warmth it needs and also protects the eggs from being eaten away by snakes and other creatures hungry for her egg. After some days, the young ones would hatch out. This is how the young ones are born.
Something struck Shruthi's mind that she was prompted to ask a question to me. She asked, "So all young ones are formed from an egg?"
Shruthi: Does that include me?
Shruthi: Oh yuck!
Me: What is so yucky about it, Shruthi?
Shruthi: And did you sit over me?
I just laughed heavily. Shruthi naturally felt insulted. So I understood the seriousness of her innocence - rather ignorance and told her, "I am not oviparous. I am viviparous. I do not lay eggs, Shruthi."
Shruthi: But you confirmed that all beings come from an egg. So how do you justify that?
Me: In case of viviparous, the eggs are formed within the female's body and that becomes a young one in course of time.
Shruthi: So! You ate an egg!
(We being vegetarians, the fact that I ate an egg is supposed to shock Shruthi)
Me (controlling all my laughter) : No. I did not eat any egg. It was just formed within me.
Me: From the egg, you were formed and after development, you were born.
Shruthi: How? Was I inside your body?
Me: Yes, for some time.
Shruthi: How long? Didn't you feel heavy? Could you moved around with me within you?
Me: The development is so gradual that we don't feel heavy.
Shruthi: How did I come out?
Me: Doctors will help us with that.
After a pause
Shruthi: So only females have eggs?
Swathi: Oh come on Ma! You must be kidding. I am a female and I do not have any egg.
I was simply confused as to how to explain it to them. I just thought of providing them some more convincing replies and close the topic soon. I said, "Eggs are of use only when it is time to have a baby, say, after marriage.
Swathi: Why only after marriage? Why can't we have babies now?
Shruthi: I know why.
For a moment I wondered how she would be able to answer this question. But she innocently said, "Because a child needs both Mother and Father."
I laughed within but the reply was so convincing to Swathi. But when I left their room, I saw the girls colouring the sheet green.