Yesterday, a group of kids (my nephew’s classmates) came to my house. My nephew is four-and-a-half years old and is studying in LKG. He calls me ‘aachachen‘. When he was young, everybody made him call me Alex Achachen. Since it was way beyond the capabilities of a one-year old child, he shortened it to ‘aachachen.’ I never bothered to change it. After all, what is in a name?

I am the resident storyteller at our home. I am a good narrator and use all sorts of special effects, sounds, background music, etc., while telling the story. Also I make it a point to tell a story with subtle variations, each time it is repeated. So, if I am telling the story of the “Sleeping Beauty”, each time I will add new elements, new characters, new subplots and so on. My nephew likes it the most, when I make him a character in the story. The only downside of this mode of storytelling is that, I always have to tell the same story over and over again.

I must have told the stories like ‘Beauty and the Beat’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Snow White and the seven Dwarfs’, ‘Magic Porridge Pot’, ‘Wizard of Oz’ and so on more than 40 -50 times each. My nephew likes to hear the stories being narrated to him. So, even though, he knows the story, he will make me repeat it again and again. He will then narrate the stories to his sister who is in play school. He got the first prize for storytelling at his school, for telling a modern version of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ where the prince comes on a Kawasaki bike (instead of a horse) and uses a lightsaber (yes the one from Star Wars, instead of the good old sword).

My policy with kids is that whenever they ask me why I am not walking, why I am sitting on the vehicle (wheelchair), what are the switches on the wheelchair for, etc., I usually try to explain to them what is spinal cord injury, how I ended on the wheelchair, how to operate the switches, and so on. Kids ask these questions to satisfy their curiosity and shooing them away, will quell their zeal for learning and I don’t want to be the one committing that crime. So depending on the age of the kids, I have many different explanations on what is spinal cord injury, road traffic accident, wheelchair and its uses. I even allow the kids to perform some of the functions just to keep them happy.

I use a Levo standup wheelchair. The Levo logo looks very similar to that of Lego. I bought it a few years back, for standing up, but now am not using the standup functionality due to severe spasms. But the wheelchair has an array of switches and a battery pack. So from a kid’s perspective, I have all the components of a high-tech gizmo. There are four wheels, there is an array of switches, there is a battery pack, and the action figure sitting on that vehicle speaks, moves around—just like the toys the kids see everyday.

Now coming back to yesterday’s incident, my nephew and his friends came to my room. He told his friends that I am his ‘aachachen.’ I didn’t know what the kids made out that. Anyway, he then asked me to tell a story. I asked him which story he wanted. Princess and the Frog, he replied. I started narrating the story with all the usual special effects and background sounds. Then it was ‘Thumbelina’ followed by ‘Cinderella’ followed by ‘The Gingerbread Man’ followed by ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and so on. I must have told the kids at least 6 – 8 stories. When I looked at the clock, I realized that I had spent more than two hours with the kids. During those two hours, except for some clarification and requests for encore, none of them moved from their seats. I think I must have made a pretty good impression on them.

Our session was interrupted when my brother came to my room to take the kids back to their homes. When they were trooping out of the room, I heard one kid telling his friend “I am going to ask mom to buy me an aachachen!

Only then I realized the kids thought that ‘aachachen’ was the name of the high-tech toy, they were playing with till then.

I couldn’t stop laughing for almost ten minutes. Children never stop to amaze me.


  1. Jo said,

    January 9, 2006 at 12:11 am

    My sister used to amaze me with her ways of story telling. Me and the other young kids in the family and the neighborhood would sit around her to listen to her stories. One day she was wondering what story to tell, then a kid in the neighborhood brought his ‘Balarama’ and asked her to narrate a story from that. 🙂

  2. Anup said,

    January 9, 2006 at 2:29 am

    Story telling, children, home…cheez dont I miss them…well that is life…have to move on with it…but whats really amazing about children is that they can ask questions which are seemingly innocous…but in reality could prove to be extremely difficult to answer…

  3. James Bright said,

    January 9, 2006 at 3:26 am

    Certainly, you might have told those stories with your own magic touch, I can imagine it..!
    BTW, you look like a film star in that photograph, Alexis…!
    My son was asking me, ‘Is the a film poster, dad..?!’

  4. silverine said,

    January 9, 2006 at 8:04 am

    “I am going to ask mom to buy me an aachachen!”

    Now that is the greatest compliment I have ever heard! Really heartwarming post on a avery cute but highly volatile and intelligent subject-kids!!!

    Having baby sat many a horror er…kid in my short lifetime I have grown extensively as a person by just being with kids. In fact your post has just inspired me to write about my baby sitting experiences. Once I was reading out loud “Red Riding Hood” to my 6 year old cousin when his 3 year old sister came and joined us.Later in the evening I heard her her tell her mom who had come to pick them up “So sad! The wolf ate ammachi” She had actually grasped the essence of the story!!! 🙂

  5. Alexis Leon said,

    January 9, 2006 at 10:55 am

    Jo: Telling story to kids is something that I always loved. Talking about ‘Balarama’ brought back old memories. When I was a kid, I used to read “Balarama” and “Poompatta” regularly.

    Anup: You are absolutely right. Answering the questions asked by kids is more difficult as they don’t have any inhibitions and would continue asking until they are completely satisfied. One cannot escape after giving an ambiguous answer.

    James Bright: Thanks James. Your son is right. The image is created from the poster of the movie “i,ROBOT” starring Will Smith, based on the book by the same name by Issac Asimov in which he sets out the principles of robot behavior—The three laws of Robotics. My photo was placed in the poster after replacing Will Smith’s photo. The wheelchair shown in the figure is called ‘iBOT’ and has the capability to standup, climb stairs, jump obstacles, etc., but costs a fortune and is only available in the US. My wheelchair is something less spectacular. The image was created by my brother Mathews, using Adobe Photoshop.

    silverine: Yes I liked it too. I look forward to reading your baby sitting experiences. “The wolf ate ammachi” comment by your little cousin is really hilarious. Yes, she got the essence of the story right.

  6. -poison- said,

    January 9, 2006 at 11:02 am

    OMG!!! i want an acchaachen too! :))

  7. anu said,

    January 9, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    im sure the kids were very impressed..

  8. Geo said,

    January 9, 2006 at 6:07 pm

    Nice :_)

    Thanks for making me remember all my kid cousins …
    Though I don’t narrate stories, I must say I am pretty popular with all of ‘em…
    Time spent with kids is always rewarding. Often I learn a lot of things from em rather than the other way around…

  9. Kesi said,

    January 10, 2006 at 2:22 am

    From reading this narrative, I can certainly understand how you got the title of ‘resident storyteller.’ Your written narration is very good as well! Shall return to hear more stories from you:-). In the meanwhile, shall check out some of your previous posts as well.

  10. Alexis Leon said,

    January 10, 2006 at 9:55 am

    -poison-: 😉

    anu: I think they were… 🙂

    Geo: Very true.

    Kesi: Welcome and Thanks

  11. anish said,

    January 11, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    Hey Alexis

    Very sweet post. One thing i missed out on during my childhood days was younger siblings and cousins (i was pretty much the youngest in the family). But later on i got coupla young nephews n nieces…i do dot on those devils (well…except when they really get on my nerves!!!). But i am never much of a story teller though…ur stories sound totally awesome….i wuld definitely try to customize some of the stories…


  12. Chacko said,

    January 14, 2006 at 7:12 pm

    spent two hours with kids by telling them stories :O .. my god … am sure i cant handle a kid for more than 15 minutes … wether its through stories or thorugh games … :D… but i love kids …

    Am sure u have that ability to tell stories in way that kids love it … u r nephew is lucky in that 🙂

    and the comment “I am going to ask mom to buy me an aachachen!” shows how much kids like u