If you are a parent, you’d know how challenging it is to keep a young child still for more than a few minutes. From constant requests for loo breaks and a gazillion questions about everything, to (god forbid) fights if there is another child, it is not for nothing parents learn referring skills early on.
A child’s development is a fluid, dynamic process. Nature, nurture and culture/arts are among the factors that help a child grow to be a well-rounded individual. The first two accommodate, and even encourage, a child’s need to explore and be restless.
But how do you get children to stay still and watch a cultural performance that isn’t on a screen, which is important for their overall development? Try taking them to a performance that isn’t aimed at children, and you will be that parent who’s subjected to filthy looks for disturbing other patrons’ viewing experience.
Saraswathi Anand, a media marketing professional and a mother of twin girls aged below 10, faced a similar dilemma. She wanted her daughters to be exposed to the best of art and culture, but not through a screen. However, in a crowd, she always ended up being that person whose kids were… well, being kids!
That’s when she decided to open up her living room and turn it into a performing space. Families could come here and watch a performance, without children being expected to be a disciplined audience. And that’s how Jagali was born. A social space in JP Nagar, it is perhaps one of its kind to cater to a family audience – adults and children alike – and celebrates the chaos that comes with it.
“My house is a no-screen zone. We don’t have a television at home and my children don’t get a lot of time with my phone either. So keeping them occupied is a bit of a challenge,” she laughs as her husband Arjun nods in agreement behind the camera.
“We couldn’t go to performances as a family because these often happen in bars, with smoking and drinking. They also happen later in the evening, when it is children’s bed time. If we took them to performances tailored for them, I’d be absolutely bored. It was a nightmare,” Saraswathi says.
The idea for Jagali came to Swaraswathi during her travel for work and leisure. “When in Europe, I’d see primary school kids being brought to art museums. Despite the high decibels, I realised every child should get such exposure,” she says. “When we were kids, we’d be dragged to Ramanavami celebrations, where the Carnatic singer would continue to sing; I doubt we listened too much. But the memory of it remains, and kept it familiar. That’s what I want for the kids – to be familiar with the culture they were born into.”
Jagali hosts one performance every month, and has a varied artist lineup. The performances are not tailored either for adults or children. From M D Pallavi to Bindhumalini, artists who are traditionally not associated with children’s events have performed here. “We tell the artists beforehand that this isn’t a typical audience they are used to, and they are all on board with it. The economics of it are also simple – there is a hat collection, and whatever is collected is given to the artist.”
Children often miss out on opportunities when they lack access. This mother decided art and culture wouldn’t slip the through the cracks in her children’s upbringing. And now a lot of children will thank her if they grow up and adopt art as a profession. Or for simply introducing them to aesthetics early on.