Paak Kutri !

Today at the brick kiln, we were allowed to enter the world of the children’s food culture. Amit had written about how to make ‘kaakadi chi bhaji ’ (cucumber fritters). Radhi had written the recipe of ‘Tilgul ( a popular sweet for Sankranti festival in Maharasthra.) “I made tilgul for sankranti,” she told us proudly. Pooja wrote about how to cook rice in a couple of broken sentences , while Chandrika wrote the recipe of ‘matar chi bhaji’. Actually, Pooja wanted to write about ‘jawalyachi bhaji’. (Jawala = dried shrimp). Vaishali wanted to write about how to make bhaaji using soya chunks. They told Kishor, “We can’t write, so you please write it for us.” Kishore sat down with them and started writing.

The girls wanted to convey many things – after all, it was a subject close to their hearts! So they even shared many unrelated things. They were not stating the recipe in any particular order. “Jawala is properly cooked when the water boils 3 times,” came first, and then, almost as an afterthought – “You need to chop onions for jawalyachi bhaji”! Kishore allowed them to talk at random for a while, and then asked pertinent questions about the order of the process. Finally, he edited out all the irrelevant bits and showed them the proper recipe in writing.

Amit, Radhi, Chandrika, Pooja and Rahul had written quite well. When we checked what they had written, Kishor and I decided to introduce ‘recipe’ (paak kruti) as a genre to write. I sat with them, and said, “Today, you have written how to prepare some food items. Even adults write such things and publish a book.”

‘What for?” the children were surprised.

“So that those who don’t know how to cook a certain item can read about it and prepare it.” I explained. The children nodded. I carried on, “When you write the process of cooking an item, it is called a recipe, paak kruti (पाककृती) . Radhi has written the paak kruti of tilgul.”

The children started giggling . I couldn’t figure out why they were laughing.

“What’s so funny?” I raised my voice a little. But the laughter didn’t stop. I decided to ignore it and asked Amit, “What paak kruti  (पाककृती) have you written?”

Paak kutri (पाक कुत्री) ?” asked Amit. The moment they heard him say it, they started laughing out loud. The word Kutri (कुत्री) sounds quite close to Kruti (कृती) in Marathi, but means a bitch.

“Oh, is that why you were laughing all this time?” Kishor and I joined in the laughter. We realized that the children were playing with words and sounds. They were laughing at the contradictions created when similar sounds were interchanged. They continued saying ‘paak kutri’ instead of ‘paak kruti’ and kept laughing. This is actually an important aspect of language education. Unfortunately, the ability to create such ‘puns’ is kept outside the purview of formal education.

After the laughter receded a little, we told them that people write books of recipes, and other people read the recipes from the books and prepare food accordingly. The children didn’t appear convinced. We decided to show them a recipe book. For the next class, we carried a recipe book as decided. We read out the recipe of ‘kandyachi bhaji’ (onion pakodas) from that book. We tried to bring to their attention what kind of language was used to write recipes. But our effort was not very successful. The children got busy in discussing ‘bhajiyas’ more than the ‘Language of the recipe’. They started comparing the recipe in the book with how bhajiyas were made in their homes.

Alongwith the recipe book, Kishor had brought the recipe of ‘mulyachi bhaaji’ – he wrote it down step by step, and cut the paper into neat strips. At the brick kiln, he spread the strips of paper on a mat in a random way and asked the children to put them in the correct order. Then we told them to write the second draft of their recipes for the next class. 

Radhi’s recipe of Tilgul

From the second draft of the recipes it is evident that children have presented the steps in a correct order. The idea of asking them to order the paper strips had worked. Radhi wrote the recipe in a narrative form. She just added the ingredients list to her earlier writing which included Tilgul,  the name of the dish itself. But somehow she realized that what she had written does not match with the genre in the book we had read aloud to them. Hence she wrote a message to me an Kishor  ” Kishor Sir & Nilesh Sir please let me know if I have done some mistakes.” I replied that she has made a good attempt and asked her to think about if she can include the name of the food item to be prepared into the ingredient list.

Amit’s recipe of Kakadi chi umbar bhaji

Amit has given steps in the recipe in proper order and has used quite formal language. Considering our failure to draw their attention to the language used for recipe yesterday, I would say, this progress was not bad at all. Another striking point was that the children were engrossed in decorating their writing using the sketch-pens. They spent almost equal time in writing and decorating. Looking at their enthusiasm of decoration I experienced absolutely  mixed feeling . Should I feel happy because they sat diligently for so long which is very rare or should feel sorry for a thing as simple as  using colourful pens was also a luxury for them. I was not able to decide.  

Procedural writing is an important milestone in the journey of children’s writing. During  this process children have to organize and plan their writing and chose appropriate words. We have decided to take this genre ahead. We will now give them topics like how to make bricks, how to play marbles or how to make a toy car using old foot ware. What we realized through this experience was that the children who were reluctant to write in the classroom made  impressive progress if the topics chosen are close to their lives.       

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