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Today was a special day. Storyteller Rituparna Ghosh had a beautiful theme where she handpicked stories about brave girls. The rainy morning with a windy feel added to the ambience. For the younger group of children, about 6-7 years at the Jaypee Public School, the author weaved an original tale about Mini who loves to paint. However, what sets her apart is the way she experiences the world of colours. Mini is only 6 years old, a very happy person and is even encouraged to become a painter when she grows up. She cannot see and that is why Mini uses her other sensory experiences like the sound, smell, touch and taste to feel what she creates. One moment of the story which helps the listeners understand Mini’s delight in learning about the colors she uses is when her mother tries to console her.  Mini’s mother makes her taste ‘tomato’, ‘tulsi leaves’, smell ‘coffee’, touch the ‘bark of the tree’ or ‘the garden earth’ and makes her hear the ‘sound of the raindrops’. All this allows her to also associate each object with a particular color.

Bic March

Do you know the taste of colours?

We see in the end how Mini is able to guess what color of expression her sister is wearing from the tone of her voice. She laughs out saying ‘Didi, you must be all red with anger because bhaiya has put green color on your face. I know you do not like the color green which is colour of Tulsi leaves’. The story makes one believe that if one has the courage to smile through difficulties, the journey definitely becomes a lot easier. Children enjoyed thoroughly because Rituparna made sure that each expression was animated and each episode was well conveyed. When the children were asked to associate one color with and activity of their choice, the results were varied. One child associated the color Red with playing, another one found the same color appropriate to express his emotion when he is cycling. One associated the color blue with swimming; one found the color of dancing to be rainbow and another one associated the color orange with Toys. Overall, children did try to imagine how they could enter the world of colors using the other sensory experiences.

The second story was for a slightly older age group. There were students from classes III, IV and V who were transported to the Taliban inflicted world of 12 year old Malala who vowed to fight for education come what may. Rituparna did a wonderful session where she introduced the highlights of the entire biography in just an hour. She approached the part about the political tensions between Afghanistan and the United States of America and the role of Pakistan. She spoke about the genesis of Taliban group and how they gained control over certain parts of Pakistan, how they entered Swat and generally what it was like to be born as a girl in Pashtun community, the community to which Malala belonged. Malala, named after Malalai, whose words of encouragement made Pakistan win the war against the British in the 1880’s truly lived up to her name. It took massive determination, passion and courage to put forth a question like ‘Who is the Taliban to take away my basic right to education?’ Slowly, the influence of Radio Mullah from the Taliban group started to spread terror in Pakistan. Girls were forced to stop going to school. Few motivated students like Malala and a few others had to go to school in the hiding from the back gate.

Rituparna also narrated briefly the story of Malala’s father who was the source of her support and belief system to begin with, his small school and his endeavors. Children were in awe after hearing the story. Towards the end, they were asked to write very short letters addressed to Malala and the response was indeed marvelous. Just to give an idea, I end with what one of the boys wrote- ‘Malala makes me feel that girls and boys should be respected equally’.

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