Wednesday, April 8, 2020

It's storytelling festival out here!

As we head towards the final week of the 21-days lock down on account of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, hoping against hope that it will slow down the infection spread, we find that “Zoom”, “BOTIM”, “Microsoft Team” along with good old “Skype” are the new buzzwords that seemed to have revolutionized the way we look at group interactions. From virtual courts and e-filings to online meetings, from online classes to online assignments, from online live story-times to online live music concerts, technology has enabled us to soldier on as far as its possible in these testing times. With an explosion of live programs on Facebook,  you find out yourself online all the time - just as you catch your favourite musician in a Facebook live “unplugged performance”, it seems to overlap with the live interactive session with the much-sought after nutrition cum fitness expert, or as you manage to get your little one to watch one of the author-hosted story sessions live on Facebook, you can’t help but leave to her device(s) and switch to another for a once-in-a-lifetime story time read out by Ruskin Bond himself !   Even in times of quarantine, I can’t believe we are still being haunted by that “Fear of missing out” (FOMO) feeling!!

Needless to say, all this is only a momentary respite from the restlessness and the fear of uncertainty, the general gloom over the impending catastrophe and the accompanying sadness in seeing so much suffering and loss of lives and livelihood all around us. That said, it’s also important to stay positive and ensure your family, particularly the kids are in good spirits as they are our unsung heroes after all, literally imprisoned for no fault of theirs and not knowing why (as with the younger ones). While many schools have embarked on online learning formats for the older kids, engaging younger kids is still a challenge. So apart from the juggling with working from home full-time or part-time, household chores , cooking and cleaning, in our case, we are called upon to choose the best of my little one’s several drawings of “Rapunzel” or get summoned to taste her pretend “poha” or “pakoda” from her pretend kitchen!  

Anyway, thanks to all the live story sessions on social networking platforms, we have been revisiting some of our earlier favorites, like Princess Easy Pleasy of which a sequel has been brought out by the author, Natasha Sharma in keeping with “constant boredom” that all our princes and princesses face in these quarantined times. In fact, in so many ways, these online story-times are better than the in-person activities, as hopefully the attention stays on the story-teller and what he or she has to say and does not wander off to the colour of the hairband worn by girl in front! :-)

With a Storytelling festival going on, we read the or Tulika’s “The Jungle Storytelling Festival” by Janaki Sabesh and pictures by Debosmita Mazumdar. This is a unique ‘Stories within a story” book that lets the kids  string together well known stories through wordless illustrations. All the animals lead by the squirrel get together for the story telling festival that flags off with the lion and the mouse story narrated by the King of the jungle himself followed by the monkey who engages everyone with his story of outwitting the crocodile greedy for the monkey’s heart and the tortoise narrating his world famous race with the hare. At the end of the first day of the festival, the Ostrich is seen looking on eagerly wondering if he could share his story too. But all the other animals brush him aside given his stammering problem. Just as he retreats to a corner expressing his sorrow in a song, Mouse Mamma hears him and is surprised to find him singing without stammering….and that is enough to give Ostoo an opening and an underdog-like success in the storytelling festival the next day. Aided with soft yet striking illustrations, this book is a brilliant interactive inter-play of age-old fables outlined by a contemporary story line so as to impress upon young minds with today’s ideals of diversity and inclusivity. Whether the lock down is extended further or not, cheer yourself and your little one with the storytelling festivals online. 

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