Most of the great works of literature have been written from the perception of adult characters. It is seldom that a story with a small child as the main character finds a secure place in world literature, and it is even more rare to find the entire story being told from the perception of a small child.
This is all the more reason why great stories related from the percepton of small children, rare as these are, should be treasured as the perception of these children should always be valued for its innocence and impartiality. Let us never forget that small children can be among the most well-reasoned inhabitants of this world as their pereptions are not yet biased and sullied by the many absurdities and distortions of this world which, let us face it, is based on the most glaring violations of reason and logic. Above all, we should learn to better admire the spontaniety and playfulness of the perceptions and responses of children, instead of forever checking them and intruding on them.
Three great stories told from the perception of children may be particularly mentioned here. The first of these is Pather Panchali ( Song of the Road), the great Bangla novel by Bibhuti Bhushan Banerji which traces the life journey of a small child Apu ( or Opu) and his sister Durga, growing up in a very poor Brahmin priest family of a Bengal village household during the 1910s. First serialized in a Bangla journal Vichitra, this novel was made into an equally great film by Satyajit Ray, the first of his famous Apu trilogy. While the sadness of a deprived childhood comes out vividly in many episodes, the writer also dwells much on how small children find their own compensations for this in their play ,in the toys they create from nowhere, in their imaginations and in the spontaneous relationships they form very quickly. Yes, there is much of the cruelty of poverty here, made worse by those with a tendency to be cruel towards deprived children, but several very tender aspects of the life these kids lead also get adequate space , and we also see time and again how even in the middle of all the deprivation there are moments of undiluted joy and laughter which is just beyond control. Children find their own exclusive picnic spot and arrange what for them is a feast on their own. They discover the secrets of forests and ponds on daily basis. Above all the bonding of brother and sister ( who also fight of course), the great affection between Apu and Durga spread across almost every page of the book is the most central narrative of this great book which is essentially about the relationships small children form—among themselves, with very elderly neglected persons in family, with chance acquaintances, with kind neighbors, with animals, with nature. The bonding of Apu with Ajay, whom he meets for less than a week, is also captured in a very sweet way. On the path of life children meet and separate, but memories remain.
The second great story discussed here relates to the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee .This book was also made into a very memorable film . This story unravels in a small town of USA during the days of the great depression, as seen from the perspective of a small girl Scout Finch and her slightly elder brother Jem. Their affectionate father Atticus Finch, a lawyer committed to principles of justice and equality, has embarked on the difficult path of defending an innocent black man accused wrongly of rape in a predominantly racist society most of whose members would rather believe a lying white person than a truthful black one.
The entire confrontation is observed from the children’s perspective, whle some side stories, more playful ones, progress side by side. The impact of this confrontation on the innocent, unsullied mind of children has been captured very well, how they absorb the reality and how shocked they are by the unravelling of the injustices around them.
Last but not the least, there is the great Hindi novel Aap Ka Banti ( which may be translated as Banti, Your Own ), written by Mannu Bhandari. One of the most widely read and discussed stories in the world of Hindi literature, this novel is about the tribulations of an endearing small child Banti ( or Bunty) who has to go through the divorce of his parents and after some time has to adjust to a step-father and a new family. This novel was first serialized in the popular Hindi magazine Dharamyug, and attracted a very large number of readers who became deeply concerned, as the story evolved in the weekly magzine over several months, that nothing tragic should happen to Banti.
The changing family situation and relationships here are captured here from the perception of a small child.What may appear to be quite a normal and rational course of action to adults can yet be very disruptive and disturbing for a child is brought out very vividly in this novel, which perceives the changing situations from the understanding of Banti .
The first two books have been made into great movies, in the case of the third one this is still awaited.
What these books taken together bring out is the great value of seeing life from the perception of small children, and together they make a strong case that this should be attempted more often in literature.
Bharat Dogra has written several poems, stories and novellas in Hindi and English, including A Day in 2071, When Mahatma Gandhi came to earth from heaven, Navjeevan and Ummeed Mat Chhorna.