The Inner Landscapes of Children’s Minds

Nidhi Garg and Vani Tripathi Tikoo

Nidhi Garg and Vani Tripathi Tikoo

The multi-faceted Vani Tripathi Tikoo talks to Prabha Khaitan Foundation about entering the inner world of children through literature

Actor, author, teacher, celebrity and political campaigner – Vani Tripathi Tikoo has many feathers in her cap. To celebrate the multi-faceted personality and her book, Why can’t Elephants be Red?, Prabha Khaitan Foundation hosted her for a special session of The Write Circle at the Mayfair Hotels & Resorts Bhubaneswar. Vedula Ramalakshmi, Ehsaas Woman of Bhubaneswar, gave the welcome speech, and Nidhi Garg, Ehsaas Woman of Bhubaneswar, moderated the session.

Tikoo took a trip down memory lane to her childhood while also talking about her thoughts and actions about her daughter, Akshara or Akku. “It’s fascinating to me that a large body of my work has been on children for many years at the National School of Drama,” Tikoo said. “As the daughter of two academics who taught at Delhi University, I was privileged to have parents who considered me a person and not a child. Most parents either talk down to children or bark at them. They forget that children are little people with extremely intelligent minds where their sense of imagination is amazing.” Her words emphasised the importance of parents recognising the presence of a child at home, the way her parents did.

“Children are an important and intrinsic part of my consciousness. I keep connecting to children because they are gurus who save us from the perils of adulthood.”

Tikoo was always surrounded by literature and would brag to her father about how she read all the books he gave her. But her father also took her down a peg or two by saying that she may have been reading the books he had given her, but what about the books that she had not explored yet? This was where her relationship with libraries started. “There is a lot of exploration left,” said Tikoo. “I am now in the process of enquiring about the world through my little girl’s eyes. Children are an important and intrinsic part of my consciousness. I keep connecting to children because they are gurus who save us from the perils of adulthood.”

Coming back to her book, Tikoo explained how the title breaks barriers from a creative and realistic approach. The book was inspired by the last play she had done at the National School of Drama, called Laal Laal Haathi. It told a story of a boy who was average in academics but good in art. In his art class, he had once drawn a red elephant that did not satisfy his teacher. But the boy stiffly responded by saying, “Your elephant is black, but I don’t have any problem with that. My elephant is red, but why do you have a problem with it?”

Tikoo then spoke about how everyone puts everything in neat boxes, and how we must find ways of unboxing things instead. She went on to speak about the education system, the double standards of parenting and how The Little Prince and Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window are mandatory reading for all. The session wrapped up with some reviews about Tikoo’s book and her experience of representing India at the Cannes Film Festival. A Q&A session followed, after which Ramalakshmi delivered the vote of thanks on behalf of the Foundation. Tikoo was felicitated by Dr Gyan Rajan Sahoo of the National Institute of Open Schooling.

The Write Circle Bhubaneswar was supported by Shree Cement Limited as their CSR initiative in association with Mayfair Hotels & Resorts Bhubaneswar and with the support of Ehsaas Women of Bhubaneswar.