a zoology lesson

When I grow up, I want to be a little boy.

— Joseph Heller, Something Happened (1974)

It is quite possible that in that family:

  • Gandhi was discussed as a matter of routine because the adults in the family respected him – or his ideas may have been floating around at home, getting discussed, debated, questioned, admired…


  • The picture of Gandhi was always there (as his toothless smiling image is always embossed on most of the currency denominations in India) hanging around in the foreground & background, perhaps because the family was obsessed with money or was busy worshiping it.

It does not matter how the impressionable little sponge of a primary child in that family,  completely internalized the fact that the ubiquitous Gandhi was a person to be respected and/or worshipped.

And, this little child starts leafing through small booklets at home, in the school library and other lending libraries – there must have been some presentations at the school, of course –  and gets some basic ideas about the fascinating universe that life is. Big Bang, Planets, Our Earth, the works

Eventually, it reads about the coming of life, evolution, kingdoms and phyla…  It develops a personal map of the nature of life…  It finally stumbles on to the idea called Mammalia.

Now the connection happened rather suddenly and beautifully.

And oh, it suddenly dawned on the child that Gandhi was a human being and in a excitedly feverish torrent of words, loudly proclaims, “Oh, Gandhiji was a mammal.”

I happened to be around when the child realized this gloriously fantastic mapping. I do not know the immediate context or the proximate cause for this serendipitous discovery of the child. I feel sad that I never thought of Gandhi as belonging to a category of mammals.

I am fascinated by the way children effortlessly map, contextualize & learn. I envy admire them.


A similar incident that happened a couple of years ago at the school: Earth Child

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