Have you ever read "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?" One day, three friends Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Joe Harper, escaped to an island and started experiencing their newly found freedom.
Almost like that story, three Bangladeshi children fled their homes after watching an adventure series on Discovery TV channel. But unlike "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," they intended to spend their life eating insects on an island.
The hardest thing for anyone is to figure out is what is going on in another person's mind. As for children, since they cannot understand others' perspectives, they are unable to analyse the causes and consequences of events. How do they think then?
As a teacher, my experience has been that children want attention, care and always seek to explore something exceptional, beautiful and sometimes adventurous. For example, children might ask "why do cats not brush their teeth?" They think like mature people, but they believe in their capacity. They feel like a real think-tank, but their world is different. They are creative but sometimes dangerous while making decisions.
The three children from Nilphamari and Narsingdi planned to go to an island. They headed towards Kuakata, a beautiful sea beach located in the southern part of Bangladesh and a vital tourist destination in the country.
However, the 700km journey from Nilphamari to Kuakata was full of adventure, not in the field but the mind. This adventure ended when Amtali Police Station in Barguna stopped them at the Amtali launch dock.
When I read about the incident in a newspaper, I thought why would they go to Kuakata? Soon I realised that Kuakata does not carry a sea beach only; instead, there are numerous other places of interest, including the Lebur Char, Jhinuk Beach, Fatra Forest, Zhou Forest, Kawar Char, Char Gangamati, Red Crab Char, Rupali Island, etc.
But how did they know about all these? I know this because I went there several times and met travel guides inviting us to visit those places.
Either they knew it from someone or found out from television or the internet that there are islands over there. They found what they wanted to know.
It is also important to notice what these Bangladeshi children did was adventurous and at the same time, it was dangerous too. While I was attending a programme at Montana State University in 2018 there was a discussion of whether the decision to ban Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" was right or wrong. I saw many international teachers opposing the ban while some supported the proposal to restrict it because it can potentially lead children in the wrong direction.
Many critics think that these types of books are obscene and dirty. In any case, Huckleberry Finn, a sequel to "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", is banned in many American schools and libraries.
If they want to read it, they are only allowed the edited version, which has removed the alleged scandalous parts. This way, many people have tried to edit the text at different times because they believed that this book was teaching children inappropriate things.
It is important to note here that children observe whatever is happening around them, observe the actions and repeat it. They think deeply about what they see around themselves. But sometimes, they can do things which might be dangerous.
Similarly, these Bangladeshi children did not do the right thing as it had a lot of risks. But why did they do that? Primarily they were inspired by watching the adventure series on the Discovery TV channel.
They wanted to carry out the scenes in reality because children do not understand nuances. What they see, they mostly believe. The problems starts here. They saw Bear Grylls doing those exaggerating stuff on television, and they thought that these were real.
Once in my debate club, there was a topic, "Should cartoons be banned?" I was mesmerised to see how my students were throwing logic from both sides.
When someone watches a cartoon, they see that a cartoon character moves independently and can go anywhere it wants. It goes to the busy street. Even if there is an accident, it does not get hurt. But, in reality, everyone knows how dangerous such acts can be.
Children do not think about the result and consequence of an activity. They do whatever they wish to do. In the story of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", one night, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn ran away from home to visit the graveyard, where they witness a murder.
Many things happened in between, but they could not open their mouths even when someone other than the killer got wrongly caught for murder.
Accidentally, they run away from home, intoxicated with adventure and go to another island to hide. There they suddenly discover the body of the murderer they had seen before. If children could know the consequences of their activity, they would not do such things for sure.
The OC of Amtali Police Station in Barguna confirmed that these three children have been rescued and handed over to their parents. As observers, we are relaxed now, but we still cannot scold them blindly until we care for them appropriately.
We need to guide them on what they are reading and watching, who they are meeting and gossiping with, and how they are approaching adulthood. It would help parents to deal with their children more carefully.
The writer was a chaperone for the International Writing Program (BTL2020) at the University of Iowa, USA. He writes on contemporary issues, education, and literature