CHENNAI: We realised that many parents today are keen on teaching their children about our culture and heritage, but they lack the time and knowledge. We are doing the work on their behalf. There is no better way than creating short videos, which parents and children can watch together and learn,” shares Charanya Kumar, co-founder and business head of Gurucool Fun, as she talks about their ‘But Why?’ initiative. The YouTube series aims to provide a platform for children to ask questions about Indic heritage and culture, and get experts to answer them.
The first series of ‘But Why?’ was under the theme of the value of curiosity. “We started working on the concept early this year and launched the series in April. We had a vast number of questions, but we narrowed it down to a 100 that we felt most children and parents would relate to. And then we started looking for experts to answer them,” she explains.
All through their workshops conducted last year — in the USA, Middle East, Europe and India — the team kept getting intriguing questions from children. Charanya’s most favourite questions of the lot were ‘If Bheema and Duryodhana both did good and bad, why is one portrayed as a hero and the other a villain?’, ‘Did Hampi really have markets filled with gems and stones? Were there no thieves?’, and ‘My friend and I eat and play together but we pray differently. Why am I a Hindu and she a Muslim?’.
“We realised the quality of questions from children and the focus area in each question was vastly different. So, we reached out to children we knew and asked them to send in their questions. When we decided to roll the YouTube series, we reached out to them seeking a video of the child asking the question,” she says.
While collating the questions was an interesting process, narrowing down on experts to answer them was the most difficult task. “Once we had the questions shortlisted and grouped, we made a list of experts who could potentially answer each of the topics. We wanted someone who was child and parent-friendly, someone who could articulate complex answers in a convincing child-friendly way, someone who would also push and challenge children’s thinking, above all someone who was a true master of the subject,” she shares.
Concluding with a Utsav
A culmination of this series via a Heritage Utsav will be held from July 29 to August 5. “Since we curated ‘But Why?’ around the theme of curiosity, we thought it would be befitting to conclude the season with answers to some larger questions like ‘Why stay rooted in modern times and how?’, ‘In the age of information overload, how do you filter out and take the nuggets of wisdom and facts’, ‘What is the Vedic prescription for current times, how relevant is it today?’ While these cannot be answered in one session, it is our humble effort to sow the seeds of questioning, so we leave people intrigued enough to explore and find more answers,” she explains.
The core idea of the Utsav, Charanya says, is to offer variety and excitement. “We have a combination of interviews, panel discussions, performances, and workshops. We want to introduce Tholpavakoothu, an ancient shadow puppetry performance by an authentic Pulavar family. This is our way of getting children excited about something that is dying.
And we also have a workshop for families to understand the Math and Science behind the Indian solar and lunar calendars (Panchangam), which most of us do not know and have conveniently rejected because it is hard to practice. But once we get people to understand the how and why of practices, they can make a more informed decision on why they choose to practice (or not) a certain thing,” she explains. The line-up also features Vedic scholar Vishaka Hari, researcher Raj Vedam, historian Chithra Madhavan, author-journalist Roopa Pai, and spirituality inclined artist Annu Kalra, among others.
The Utsav will be a way to destress with the family, get together and watch something that is entertaining, exciting and insightful. “We are sure pieces of information from the Utsav will serve as conversation starters in many homes, paving way for meaningful dialogues across generations. We invite children, parents, and grandparents to join; we are consciously making this a family event,” she says.
For details, visit, gurucool.fun/heritage-utsav.