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Valentina Trivedi promised to take the kids on a journey where they would get to meet their forgotten relatives. The children were a little surprised – who could these forgotten relatives be?

A video came up on screen showing an infant wailing, a small seed erupting, the baby continuing to wail, small plants showing signs of growth – in that order. The video continued till the point it became clear that the growing stages of an infant and a plant were being shown simultaneously. After looking closely and thinking deeply, the children realized that the only difference between the two was the wailing in one and silence in the other. Children recognized their forgotten relatives – plants.

Facts about nature and life

Facts about nature and life

The next video was about a forest. Valentina asked a question: do trees demand anything from human beings? The kids answered in unison – No. Her next question: do we want something from trees? The children had so many answers. Yes, of course, they said. ‘We want medicine, rubber, fruits, flowers, pencils, furniture, oxygen, cotton, etc’.

Then we all learned about a beautiful trait of the plants. A scientist named Mr. Baxter wanted to find out a scientific way of determining that plants have life. He attached a polygraph machine (lie detector) to the nodes of the plant. He tried doing a lot of things but there was no response when suddenly a cruel thought came to his mind: let me set fire to the plant. Suddenly, the plant started shuddering. He was overwhelmed by the reaction: the plant had read his mind!

He came near pretending to set it on fire but did nothing. The plant sensed that he was simply playing a trick and remained still. But Baxter had to test if his experiment was a success. Do plants sense human intentions?

One day he called 6 of his scientist friends and gave each of them a small piece of paper. Only one of them had an instruction saying kill the plant. The rest were blank. One by one the scientists entered the room where two plants were kept. After a while, one scientist came out after killing the plant. A few days later, the same set of scientist friends were invited and they were asked to go near the remaining plant. Baxter had attached the polygraph machine to the nodes of this plant. The moment the scientist who had killed the other plant came closer, its leaves started swishing wildly.

Valentina then talked about a tree that was exposed to Hindustani Classical music and which bore many fruits compared to one not exposed to music. Such fascinating facts about plants left all of us stunned.

A beautiful video about the effects of changing seasons on trees was shown next. Valentina explained to the kids that in reality the changes take place very slowly. A camera was left behind to capture all the changes. This was followed by a video and discussion about the honeybees and their specially coordinated ‘dance for communication’. The kids loved to talk and learn about the bees and also the process of accumulating nectar from the flowers. In the end, there was a short film by Steve Cutts – the illustrator and animation expert – that exposed us to the perils brought about mankind – all because man destroys and indulges in excesses.

By Sebanti Chatterjee

Bookaroo-DPL Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain is supported by mycity4kids and DK India.

Day 7 with Anupa Lal started on a responsible note – the need to be aware about one’s environment and making conscious efforts to keep it healthy. She briefly touched upon the issues of kindness and concern towards natural resources, birds, animals and human beings via a friendly interaction with the kids.

After introducing the theme of the workshop, Anupa opened her magic chest of tales. The first tale revolved around an elephant and two tailors. Each day the elephant used to put his long trunk inside the tailor’s shop and the good-natured tailor (achha wala darzi) used to pamper him with bananas and other delicacies. If there wasn’t any food, the tailor used to pet the wonderful creature.

Enchanting stories

Enchanting stories

Used to such kindness, the elephant put his trunk inside the shop another day. That day, unfortunately, the original tailor wasn’t present and it was a mean tailor (tang karne wala darzi) who was stitching the clothes. He wanted to play a cruel prank on the elephant and pierced his needle into the elephant’s trunk. The elephant quickly withdrew his trunk and went away silently. Next time, the elephant carried muddy water in his trunk and without any warning sprayed all of that inside the tailor’s shop. New bridal clothes that the tailor was expected to stitch were all spoilt. Moral of the story? In order to receive kindness, one must internalize the act of kindness.

The second story was set in China. It was about a ruthless zamindar, a simple and honest worker whose name was Zaipaan and a bunch of monkeys. The story was about how while resting in the field after a particular tiring session, a troop of monkeys descended on a sleeping Zaipaan and started playing with his stomach. Being a friendly guy, he let them enjoy their moment of fun. The monkeys did not want to let him go and carried him from mountain to mountain till, finally, they led him to a treasure trove of gold and silver.

When the monkeys got tired of him, Zaipaan picked up a few valuables and made his way back home. When the greedy zamindar saw this and heard the story he wanted to try his luck too. However, he was not fond of animals and did not trust the monkeys. He panicked when he saw the thin bridge over which he was being carried and started yelling. The startled monkeys dropped him in the gorge. Have faith in others is the moral of this story.

The children, by now, were really happy and looked forward to many more stories. Anupa did weave two more tales about the perils of being unfair which too touched a sensitive chord.

The best thing about Anupa’s storytelling was that she engaged the children simply through her words, select gestures and voice modulation. She made a direct connection and the kids loved the warm and cosy atmosphere where the stories seemed to reflect similar moments they must have experienced in their own houses. Alas! It was only a one-hour journey.

By Sebanti Chatterjee

Bookaroo-DPL Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain is supported by mycity4kids and DK India.

It has been a week now. By now the children have acquired the eagerness to embrace more creativity, imagination and fun. Devendra Mewari, today’s storyteller beautifully explained his works through the following phrase ‘I write Science from a literary pen.’

He began the session by remembering Amir Khusro’s description about antarishk who had said that, sar ke upar dhal hain jisme bahut saare moti lagey hue hain. The children were extremely happy to know about the different stars present in our universe. When he said ‘Nadi jaisi doodh chali jati hain’, the children shouted in unison – MILKY WAY!

Around the Universe in 60 minutes

Around the Universe in 60 minutes

Devendra was glad to explore Akash Ganga with the kids. He told the kids that he was taking them on an imaginary tour whereby his medium of expression would be words while the children would have their mind’s eye to experience it all. Devendra ji ka commando, Devida, phir le chala saare bachhon ko Sauryamandal ki sair par.

There was discussion about the Sun, its distance from the Earth and light-years. The author playfully explained why the Sun’s temperature is so hot (the presence of Hydrogen and Helium gases and the transformation of Hydrogen to Helium that makes it so hot). He also spoke about sunspots and recalled the ghazal by Ghulam Ali ‘Sooraj pe lagi dhabba kudrat ka karishma hain.’

At one point, he spoke about Copernicus’ distress on his deathbed. Uska ek hi dukh raha gaya tha ki usne ‘budh graha’ kabhi nahi dekha tha. He asked all the children to have a look at Mercury if they manage to get hold of a telescope. Some kids responded. One of them saw Mercury when he went to Rajasthan with the Astronomy Club of his school. One saw the Jupiter and its moons, one saw the moon, one child saw Saturn and one of them had seen a comet. Suddenly the imaginary world became very real.

Venus, Bhor ka taara, he said is the most sparkling object in the sky after the Moon. He asked the children to imagine dark clouds and the poisonous acid rains. Then after a while they all reached the Neela Graha, Earth.

He spoke of oceans and continents, rotation and revolution and about the seasons. He spoke about bio-diversity too. The high moment of today’s workshop was a song that he sang along with the kids – a song about Earth. The children were quite happy to pick up an entirely new tune and a set of lyrics on spot. It was quite a delight really.

There were stories and descriptions about Mars, the asteroid belts between Mars and Jupiter, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Finally he spoke of the dwarf planets Ceres, Eris and Pluto. He was quite sad as Pluto, which once was one of the major planets, has now become part of the dwarf planets according to new scientific calculations.

Overall, the children felt quite happy to be able to provide valuable inputs every now and then. The imaginary world they shared with Devendra Mewari after all coincided with the facts that they encounter in their textbooks quite often. It was a fun-study hour for the kids with bold strokes of imagination.

By Sebanti Chatterjee

Bookaroo-DPL Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain is supported by mycity4kids and DK India.

The final day with Vandana Bist at DPL was phenomenal. Already high on the energy and creativity of the past two days’, they came forward to explore things fearlessly. Fifty-five children came for today’s session, which focused on writing poetry.

Rapport had already been built which is why Vandana started the day by introducing the kids to the concept of association with a given word. It took a while for children to figure out the game but soon they worked their way around it.

The children took back more than just Vandana's autograph

The children took back more than just Vandana’s autograph

With Baarish, for example, many words and imageries floated in front of us. They were boond, paani, nadi, bijli, talab, mor, badal, kale, varsha, keechad, jal, briksha, samudra, sagar, pakore, asmaan, kuan, neend, thandak, gila jharna, nal, megh, barsaat, chhata, toofan aur jaldhar.

It became quite easy once they got a hang of the idea. They had to collect words based on the given word portraying their thoughts visually, either by using synonyms of the given word or by evoking descriptions about it.

It was a slightly difficult exercise especially because they had to do the activity in a group. Poetry is not easy in a group. There were nine groups today and each group was given an illustration to sharpen their observation skills. All they had to do was to put together words that came to them by looking at the picture.

Now, using the various words children had to create rhythmic poems. Vandana explained the concept of jumla (rhyming) by explaining the order of sentences like ‘ka-kha-ga-kha’ or ‘ka-kha-ka-kha’ pattern. “For the build-up” she said, “it was essential to concentrate on the ‘mahaul’ or mood, har tareh ki maze ya pareshaniya and descriptions about the observable items.” The children came up with beautiful poems using the given illustrations of monkeys, Raavan, happy kings, old monuments, court dancers or clever peasant boy.

I had a brief chat with few children who have been participating for the last three days and their parents. One mother thought that her child benefitted greatly from this exposure as it made her share her ideas with few other children. She said ‘usko sabse achhi lagi jhooth likhne wali exercise kyunki waise toh jhooth bolna allowed nahi hain’. This was in reference to Vandana’s activity about writing 10 false sentences about oneself.

Another child found the poetry writing exciting as it encouraged them to explore it through pictures. Another kid enjoyed the story writing session better as he felt more in control there and found creation of new words intriguing.

The children took back much more than just Vandana’s autographs and endearing personality. They discovered hardly-explored corners of creativity, confidence and abilities. Vandana also had a little chat with the parents where she requested them to encourage their children to read and indulge them into fun activities like these.

By Sebanti Chatterjee

Bookaroo-DPL Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain is supported by mycity4kids and DK India.

‘Sab Ke Bas Ki Baat – Ban Gayi Kahaani’. Loosely translated, it means ‘Anyone can write a story’. That was the theme on Day 2 with Vandana. And it got even more interesting than Day 1. Thoughts got reflected on paper.

Vandana first encouraged the kids to come up and share the stories that they enjoyed reading about. A few shared Birbal stories, others shared “Hans aur Lomri ki Kahaani” and so on. Through this introductory interaction, she made the children think through five inherent elements that make a story interesting to anybody.

There you go. Some of the results

There you go. Some of the results

Be it Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Harry Potter, Ramayana, Mahabharata, there will be, she pointed out, a stream of ideas, one or more than one main character, a basic problem that makes the plot of the story, a phase of problem-solving and finally the location of the tale.

“Kahaani mein,” she explained in Hindi, “katputlio ke tarah aap apne characters ko control karte ho”. The storyteller is a puppeteer who controls the characters in the story. She made them aware of the importance of letting loose one’s imagination but also keeping in mind the different readers for whom the story is being written.

To make sure that the tales do not wander in completely different directions, she said that one should come up with shorter or crisper (‘karak’) dialogues. At the same time, one should have an idea about representing one’s characters – either through their exclusive speech patterns or mannerisms.

The trick also is to set the story in a location that the author knows about. Initially, it is easier to present one – or a maximum of two – location in one’s story. And how to make them different from others’? Vandana asked them to think of all those interesting first pages of books they had read so far. Stories that began with a terrifying shriek or a sarcastic comment for instance always manages to capture one’s attention. All one needs to do is begin the story in a compelling manner.

The children were split into six random groups with the first line of the story given along with certain words. All that the kids had to do was to write at least 100 words with all the given words and create an urge among the rest to know what might follow thereafter.

Here’s a sampler of the starters. The first group worked with words or phrases like Don, Domino’s Pizza, Akbar ki Talwaar, Nanaji and Sandook. The second group worked with words like Amma ki cellphone, Magic bus, Antariksh, Haathi ka bachha. The third group spun their story along the following – Police station, didi ke shaadi ka din, kaddu ka ped and bua. The fourth group played around with the phrases peepal ka ped, halwai ka dukaan, dher saare homework garmiyo ke chuttiyon mein, Raju mama ka khatara gaadi. The fifth group worked with imli ke ped, school library, Mumbai ki Juhu beach, kharaus mali. The last group made use of words like pinjre mein tota, kavitaayen bolta hua Bandar, Muchho wali chhipkali and chand, to write their story.

All the stories reflected the magic of mixing words and imagination and also inspired thinking together with limited words and phrases. As Day Two with Vandana wound to a close, everyone eagerly looked forward to the closing day. Vandana does have a way with children and sprinkles oodles of energy and imagination all the way.

By Sebanti Chatterjee

Bookaroo-DPL Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain is supported by mycity4kids and DK India.

This was Day One of a three-day activity session with Vandana Bist, the illustrator. The first day (Day 3 of Bookaroo-DPL Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain) at Delhi Public Library, Sarojini Nagar, captured a different mood of all the 35 children present. It was neatly divided into three fun activities. The first activity began with shy introductions about each other and the kind of stories they enjoy reading. The kids talked about the Harry Potter series, Sinbad the Sailor and Naitik Kahaniyaan.

When they were asked whether they like to write as well, almost all the children said yes. Some told us about the themes they have explored so far. It ranged from fairies, beggars, magic shoes, a story about the growing relationship between a tree and a child, a moral story about a glass of milk and so on. Only a few of them had tried writing in Hindi though.

"Wasn't difficult, was it?" asks Vandana

“Wasn’t difficult, was it?” asks Vandana

Vandana made the children aware about two most important things while toying with the idea of writing. She stressed on observation. “Camera ke jaise aankhon se likhna hain,” she said. The second essential is the ability to listen. “Sunna zaroori hain,” she advised. She also told them that it was okay to be bilingual at times. ‘Maata kripya idhar aaiyen’ can also be ‘Ma please idhar aao’.

She gradually engaged the children in a fun activity where she asked them if anyone could remember something specific about anyone’s speech pattern. Not many were forthcoming and their reticence to let themselves go was noticeable. Only one child managed to describe her own cousin’s speech pattern – a cousin who eats away the words in between when Pajama becomes Pama. Another one spoke about his friend who replaces ‘sa’ with ‘fa’. Sab khelne chalo becomes fab khelne chalo.

The author then told the children about maintaining a dairy or an everyday journal to help them record the things they look at or hear all the time. She then asked them to describe some of the people or objects they met or saw while coming or some scenes they regularly come across. Some of them spoke about the number of trees, the buildings and gardens in and around their neighborhood and school.

Vandana then asked the kids to spread out and write 20 adjectives each about the other children participating in the workshop. This was all in Hindi and they were allowed to experiment with two adjectives and roll them into a single word. Words like Patlamba (Patla+Lamba), Gochora (Gora+chora), Kalmojju (someone who wears black socks always) and Tribaheni (the boy with three sisters) flowed off the children’s lips.

Vandana magically used phrases like ‘Neel pair wali Rapunzel aap boliye’ (she was referring to a girl wearing a blue jeans having long hair) and Laal mirchi aur neembu ladki (girl who was a wearing a lime t-shirt and red jeans) to encourage the children to play with their imagination alongside words. The kids enjoyed this activity to the fullest.

Lapsing into Hindi and English for a moment, sabse mazedaar activity jo sabko hasayan woh tha Write all the Wrong Things about Yourself. The children were asked to write 10 false sentences about each other. I found some of the responses extremely innovative: One girl said, ‘Mera naam Munshi Prem Chand hai, meri maa Priyanka Chopra hain, Mujhe Jazz dance karna achha lagta hain’, one boy said that ‘Mere paas woh ghari hain jo duniyaa ko khatam kar sakta hain’, another boy said that ‘Mere shehar ka naam Jhootham hain aur meri sahar bahut jhoot bolti hain’, someone said ‘Mein Sachin Tendulkar ko cricket sikhayi thi’ and another one said ‘ jab mujhe gussa aata hain toh mere muh se aloo nikalta hain’.

Overall, it was a wonderful session and really let the children explore their imagination by sticking to simple words and objects and people present at that moment or those whom they encounter daily.

By Sebanti Chatterjee

Bookaroo-DPL Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain is supported by mycity4kids and DK India.

The DPL hall on the second day of Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain exuded enthusiasm, interest and sheer joy alongside the dedicated attention. The kids were overwhelmed by the wonders of geometric shapes and their aid in drawing cats, fish or dogs.

Ajit Narayan: Drawing lines

Ajit Narayan: Drawing lines

More than 50 children came equipped with drawing sheets, pencils, sharpeners and erasers even though the library had it ready for them. Cartoonist Ajit Narayan won the guessing game hands down when he managed to draw a dog that started off with just a square and a rectangle. Children came up with several guesses when they saw these shapes – a kite, a bird, a clock, bread. Alas! They were all wrong.

The real fun began when he started teaching how to draw a cartoon face staring right across, glancing sideways or looking upwards. It was all about shifting the lines sideways, towards the central, below and above.

Ah! So drawing is not always about having great imagination – sometimes, all we need are diverse geometric shapes and some simple sketch rules. The fascinating point was the one where human expressions were being demonstrated – laughing faces, worried faces, cunning-idea face, forgetful faces, crying faces, matter-of-fact faces, surprised faces, shocked faces, dizzy faces and so on. Ajit even created a short storyline to fit in these various expressions one after the other.

The children got extremely involved and some among them were natural cartoonists! They learnt the tricks of the trade by playfully moving their pencils until – voila! – they came to draw stickboard figures in different postures. It wasn’t just the children. Even those of us who were watching learnt how to improvise with shapes when drawing faces, whether they were cup shaped, dew-drop, tear-drop or rectangular. Ajit even came up with a Shinchan face.

In the end, their excitement knew no bounds. Many children queued up to get their drawing sheets autographed by Ajit. Others bought the how-to-draw books by him and happily got those autographed.

By Sebanti Chatterjee

Bookaroo-DPL Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain is supported by mycity4kids.com and DK India.

Day one of the month-long summer festival, Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain, got off to a cracking start with a mystery story set in the past.

Today, at the spacious hall of the Delhi Public Library (DPL) in Sarojini Nagar, nearly 70 children between the ages 8 and 10 who came for the session experienced an absolute delightful story. The author kept the surprise alive in his story, Aurangzeb ki Angoothi, right till the end.

Abhijit Sinha gets going

Abhijit Sinha gets going

The story took us through the visual imageries of the old Chandni Chowk where the principal characters get lost in the alleys of Ballimaran, Kinari Bazaar and so on. Delicacies like a glass of Sherbet for 1 paise, Parathas from the Parathe Wale Gali and the mouth watering Jalebis were an integral part of the thrilling tale.

Who knew that a small piece of paper that the young protagonists of the story accidentally found in one of the halls of the Delhi Public Library – where children were not permitted officially – would lead them to a beautiful dazzling ring (with a blue aura around it)? All they had to do was to look closely at the image of the Ghanta Ghar and the number 14 written beside it – that was Aurangzeb’s Angoothi (ring).

The children loved the interactive moments between the story-telling, which not only allowed them to talk about their personal experiences in Chandni Chowk but also speculate about the possible turn of events.

Historic places like Lal Qila, Jama Masjid and Fatehpuri Masjid were interestingly weaved into the mystery based on a popular tongue twister or phrase, Chandu ki Chacha ne Chandu ki Chachi ko Chaandi ki Chamche se…

The distinctiveness of the main characters Alu, Kachalu and Mary further added to the storyline. Alu being the curious, cautious and the intelligent one rightfully emerged as the hero of the story. Not to forget Kachalu who proved to be his right hand throughout. It was only Mary who was the occasional troublemaker but she too was an important accomplice to trap the dangerous looking men.

By Sebanti Chatterjee

Bookaroo-DPL Kitabein Kuch Kehti Hain is supported by mycity4kids.com and DK India.