Totto-chan: Girl at the window


I had a month long vacation after college and I got to read this amazing book. Its only around 130 pages long and I finished it within a couple of hours. It was one of the most pleasant books that I have read in some while. Its about a little girl who is expelled from a school because of her “misbehaviour” and about her time at a new school run by a professor trying out a new style of teaching kids.

It moved me so much because it brought back memories of my own childhood. I think everyone should try and sit down and spend some time remembering how it felt like to be a child. Only people who still can feel what they felt as a child can understand and help them. Either that or they should never have stopped being a child. That incredible itch for knowing and understanding things, that innocence, lack of worries these are all things that adults should never let go off.

Maybe, if we play with kids and observe them, we can regain some of the things that nature blessed us with. We can once again discover happiness and freedom and the thirst for knowledge. Instead of flocking to spiritual “gurus” and seeking “food for the soul”, we can discover how to be a human merely by observing a child.

All I can remember of my childhood is a desire to “know everything” and do awesome stuff. I never had a clear idea of what constituted awesome. I was also incredibly naughty and almost impossible to control. Once I got home from school I would sneak out of the back-door, take my cycle and set-off on exploratory missions. My nasty sense of direction and almost complete lack of memory meant that I would very soon get lost. But, it never bothered me that I might not be able to find my way back. Daddy would get back home in the night and then set out on his bike looking for me. Eventually he would find me happily cycling along and ask me to follow him back. My childhood was such great fun for me that I almost failed to notice what a big pain I was for my parents.

But, luckily for them, I eventually outgrew my obvious rebelliousness. I am really thankful that they didn’t try to exercise total discipline on me. Part of the reason for that was they themselves grew up as free-birds and they understood the value of letting children learn from their mistakes and encouraging them to be brave and fearless. After all, I don’t think obedient people did a whole lot of amazing stuff.

Another thing that I felt was that education was for the most part failing tragically in the case of most people. Most think that being able to speak a couple of languages and knowing the capital of all states and other such trivial stuff is what education is about. I don’t think that is right. Modern teaching material is like a skeleton. It’s just a collection of facts and figures. What a person needs to do is fill in the gaps and see it for the living, breathing majestic being that accumulated knowledge is.

This line in the book struck me deeply and I feel it is something that all of us should keep in mind.

Having eyes, but not seeing beauty; having ears, but not hearing music; having minds,
but not perceiving truth; having hearts that are never moved and therefore never set on
fire. These are the things to fear, Kobayashi

That sense of meaning and beauty is something that is inherent in every child. When it is abused and destroyed by schools, they try to satisfy it with the spiritual crap dished out by religious institutions. Scientific education, appreciation of art, music, literature and human feelings like love, affection and attachment to things should be encouraged in every child. After all we are bringing up a human being, not a robot. Humans have failings and thats part of their beauty. I don’t know whether this is a sure-fire formula for success in our modern world. But, that could be a problem with our world, not with our children.

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2 thoughts on “Totto-chan: Girl at the window

  1. So glad you liked this book! Don’t know if you remember me reading it’s Malayalam translation during the final year.

    The world of children is so colourful and magical, and adults should take care not to shatter that world, which adults can never even begin to understand without discarding the notion that children are to be in their control.

    I’m really enjoying living with children, because a different part of you comes alive, which you didn’t even realize, existed.

  2. I remember you mentioning it to me once. After reading the book I was almost certain that you had read it too.
    I don’t think that adults cannot even begin to understand the world of children… if that were true the book wouldn’t have been written.
    But, it is true that childhood is something truly special and must be enjoyed to the fullest.

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