Eileen at Torch 1 Eileen Torch 2

Eileen Browne had barely stepped off the plane from the UK this morning before she was whisked across Delhi to meet the children of TORCH, an NGO based in Nizamuddin that works with street children.

Although Eileen has never visited Delhi before she has strong links with TORCH. Her book Handa’s Surprise has been so much enjoyed by the children over recent years that she has already replaced their much thumbed Big Book. This too is now showing signs of wear and tear, so as Eileen read the story with the children rather than to them as they know it by heart, she suggested that as the children like drawing  they should produce the missing pages themselves.

She asked if any of them had been to Bookaroo. A flurry of hands shot up and in answer to her question of what they liked best, responses varied from drawing on the Doodle Wall to choosing and buying a book in the bookshop.

A second book, Boo Boo Baby and the Giraffe, was shared with much lolloping, sliding, plunking, cooing and rooing until Boo Boo Baby fell fast asleep.

After all the excitement the children sat transfixed as Eileen brought Handa to life on the blackboard – so much so that one little boy became most confused as to whether she was in fact a real girl living in Africa. It was a small step from there to question whether Shah Rukh Khan was real or imaginary!

Following this slight digression, the children quickly pointed out that the picture was not complete – there were no hens! So Eileen drew four before some of the children took it in turns to come up and add the remaining six. Eileen commented that the children’s were as good, if not better, than hers.

Eileen left clutching a chain of paper children which had been coloured in by the real children and her head was filled with smiling faces.

Jo Williams

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