Monday, April 28, 2014

Tulika day!

It was “Tulika day” today at one of our favourite bookstores, Atta Galatta where children, parents, children’s book enthusiasts and children’s book authors, particularly Tulika authors got together under one roof to celebrate Indian children’s literature from Tulika kaka! One of the pioneering children’s books publishers in India, Tulika has brought out picture books for children in English and in many regional languages since 1996. Tulika’s books have had a distinctive quality combining both both old and new, fiction and non-fiction, traditional and contemporary art to help our children make sense of the world we live in while instilling a love for reading and books!  We’ve been big fans of Tulika books on Onestoryaday  with over twenty Tulika titles featured at different points in time. So when Tulika author, Saffron tree blogger and friend Arundhati Venkatesh mentioned about Tulika day, I had the date marked on my calendar!

It was early Sunday evening, we were at a bookstore with  our seven year old growing-into-a-book-lover rubbing shoulders with authors who’s books we loved, listening to stories being read out and enacted by the authors themselves, and illustrations brought alive by the illustrators with their the on-the-spot art, what more could a family of picture book enthusiasts ask for??

The event began with an interactive storytelling session by Tulika author Arthi Anand Navneet who regaled the kids with the colours of Ranganna and together mulled over the predicament of the gentle giant attempting to cool off at the village pond in “Gajapathi Kulapathi”, in its recently released sequel followed by illustrator Soumya Menon demonstrating her drawing of an elephant and a monkey on the white board which the children eagerly attempted to imitate on white paper.
One of the highlights of the evening was Radhika Chada’s reading of two of her stories from the Baby Bahadur series that also had our seven year old revisit the books he’d devoured some time ago.
Illustrator Sayan Mukerjee of  Tulika’s “Hey that’s an A” then showed the kids that alphabets too can have a personality of their own followed by the much awaited dramatization of “Junior Kumbhakarna”…making it a grand finale of sorts with kids blowing trumpets to beating drums trying to wake up “Kumbhakarna”(played by Vikram) as he lay zzzzzzzing on the couch! Tulika day sure proved to be an enjoyable evening full of stories of favourite Tulika characters, art, drama and of course books, books and more books!  

One of the books showcased today was the recently released sequel to Ashok Rajagopalan’sGajapati Kulapati”, once again titled as “Gajapati Kulapati” by the same author with its cover page in blue and we picked up the same for tonight's read. We all know about the gentle elephant named “Gajapati Kulapati” and the commotion caused by him catching cold in the first book. But the second book has him beating the summer heat by diving into the village pond making huge splash “kalabalooosh” driving away the others in the pond, including the cow which lands on the roof of the teacher’s house!  As Gajapati Kulapati is sad and lonely to have the pond all for himself, Patti Amma, as always, comes to his rescue and devises a plan so as to have Gajapati Kulapati kalabaloooshing along with his friends plishing, ploshing and wooshing in the pond all together! We loved both books, but enjoyed the build-up to Gajapati Kulapati’s “Atchooooooo” more than the “Kalabalooosh” in the second book. Need I even say anything about the superb illustrations that perfectly complement the story’s ethnic setting and beautifully capture the mood of the characters!  Overall, a befitting sequel to an endearing story underlining the value of an inclusive world, making it a great summer read for kids!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Every vote can make a difference!

The country is engulfed in election fever as India votes from April 7th to May 12th to constitute it’s 16th Lok Sabha, Indian Parliament’s lower house comprising of representatives of people from 543 constituencies country-wide. While this is the one of the important issues facing the adult world, our younger kids couldn’t really be bothered much!  Nevertheless, Abhay was intrigued as we headed out last week on polling day (April 17th) including wheeling our 96 year old granny (which made national news!) to the polling booth to cast our vote. Since Abhay is now at stage where he can comprehend news and current affairs, I did read him a couple of articles on elections reported in a child appropriate manner vide Child Friendly News, a fortnightly newspaper for kids. I am not sure if he understood fully, but it is never too early to instill the importance of one’s own contribution towards a better country.  It is disheartening to see that while people don’t lose an opportunity to criticize or fault with the present state of affairs, they don’t make use of the opportunity afforded to make a difference. Of course, one may have a genuine reason for not being able to cast one’s vote, but going on a vacation taking advantage of the Easter weekend is certainly not one!

I was looking for a story to read on the value of one’s vote but couldn’t find one on the eve of polling day in Bangalore. But this week’s  Young World, the children’s supplement of "The Hindu" carries a story in its Quick read section on the importance of voting titled “Let your vote decide” by Ramapriya Ayyer. As elections were round the corner, Mr Gupta was busy reading the newspaper when his eleven year old son Anuj asks him as to what difference does it make if Mr. Gupta votes or not. Just then an altercation broke out downstairs owing to the new watchman Bhim Singh’s negligence. Many residents of the apartment complex were not happy with the appointment of Bhim Singh in place of the earlier watchman Sakharam, who Anuj felt was more efficient and helpful. On a complaint to the apartment association, the association decides to hold an election on the issue of the appointment of the watchman. Mr Gupta who was in favour of hiring back the earlier watchman Sakharam was hoping to garner enough support for his cause, including that of his friend Mr. Shekhar. But the election was evenly poised with many supporting retention of Bhim Singh as the apartment’s watchman. As all the members cast their respective votes and the counting process came to an end, Mr. Shekar was nowhere to be found. The Secretary then announces the election result to be a tie, to Mr. Gupta’s dismay. What happens after that is a vindication of the fact that each and every vote is important and does make a difference! With the sixth phase of elections being held across twelve states today …..all you Indians …..go out there and get inked!!  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Theatre Gold!

Summer’s here and so are summer camps!  Two years, when I first began exploring the summer camp scene in our neighbourhood, I so wished I could enroll my then five year old into one of the summer activities held at Rangashankara but couldn’t as the minimum stipulated age was seven. This year however, there was no doubt that Abhay was getting on board the Summer Express 2014! If we could, we would have enrolled him into all the workshops that he was eligible for, but alas, with vacation plans already made much before the announcement of the Summer Express schedule, we could only do the workshops in April. We enrolled Abhay into a five day workshop called “Theatre Gold” conducted by Padmavathi Rao (a.k.a Pinty akka), a summer express veteran, a gifted story teller and a writer-director of plays for children. Essentially meant for children of the age group of seven to nine years, the endeavour of this workshop was to introduce the children to the theatre, identify the common and not so common sources to draw inspiration from, and recognize if not fully understand the process of onstage and off stage activities involved. This year’s theme for “Theatre Gold” being ‘values’,  each parent was asked to scrawl out a proverb or a saying that best reflected the values they hoped to imbibe in their kids which, was then mounted on a chart board for “Pinty akka” to weave them into her interaction with the kids.  

Each day, the kids worked around the theme along with Pinty-akka and her team who tried to convey the essence of their parents’ messages and helped them understand and develop their own value based sayings, while throwing light on various aspects of performing on stage. The kids were also involved in constructing and creating their own props, through origami and papier machie with the help of organic materials and home made glue. On the last day yesterday, the kids put up a small presentation comprising of a series of 30-second acts/skits in groups of threes, with the plot, dialogues and delivery all managed by the kids themselves! 
Abhay enjoyed the workshop and was in fact begging for more! We as parents were delighted and felt relieved that the workshop was more process oriented than result oriented. On a personal note, I happened to reconnect with an old schoolmate after almost two decades, whose son happen to attend the same workshop. Overall, it was a one-of a kind workshop that Abhay will always remember …..all thanks to Pinty Akka and team and not to forget her  personalized bookmarks for all the summer express travellers!! J

So celebrating Abhay’s first Summer Express adventure, I had him read “School Play” by Susan Nees, a part of illustrated Early chapter books brought out as the Branches series by Scholastic as to help Early readers transition into chapter books.
This particular story is a part of Missy’s Super-Duper- Royal-Deluxe series. Missy loves to be on stage and dreams of being a big star, so famous that she doesn’t have to go to school. Her mother ferrets out the reason she is reluctant to go to school – her class is putting up a play and she doesn’t get a big part, in fact not even a speaking part! Despite all her pleadings and protests, Missy is sent to school where she is annoyed to find nothing going right for her – from her school report being shot down by the teacher to her music teacher chiding for singing too loud…it’s just not Missy’s super deluxe day! To add to this, she discovers to have forgotten her lunch and is forced to eat her school lunch made of bruzzels sprouts! To her dismay…all her classmates talk about is the play …and their substantial parts with dialogues, colourful costumes and music. So Missy decides to take the matter into her hands and slightly tweaks her dialogue-less role and dull costume and adds some much needed sparkle to the play, while also helping a fellow performer with his dialogues that ultimately saves the play in a super-duper-royal deluxe way!  We loved the realistic portrayal of the issues that confront a primary school kid and particularly the call outs that represents her confused yet determined mind! Though the story has a usual ending, this Early chapter book aided with apt illustrations takes the young reader through various facets of putting up a performance, including music, costumes, props, dialogue prompts, settings and of course team work! So there’s lot more to theatre than what we see on stage ….which hopefully Abhay was able to identify through one of his first workshops at the Summer Express! Here’s hoping he gets on the summer express next year too!! J

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The wonderful vacation!

After a two week stay at “Shristi”, his grandparents’ farm at Dharmasthala, Abhay is back and so is Onestoryaday! J  Unlike the last two years, this time around however, Abhay only stayed for a fortnight, as opposed to a month. Well….. we found that two weeks is an ideal timeframe - for a city kid to enjoy a quiet country life, for his slowly aging grandparents, and for his parents whose lives don’t seem the same without the constant chatter of their seven year old! While Abhay did miss his parents at times, he seemed to have had a time of his life being the boss of “Shristi” – his grandfather ever ready to act as per his bidding, including driving him to a nearby town for his daily quota of chocobar ice cream, his grandmother devising fun ways and means to engage him, even in the darkest hours (quite literally as they survived without electricity for over two days owing to torrential rains!), that included an interactive game revolving around naming places from their ending sounds!!  Phew!....keeping kids engaged during holidays is no easy task and making an extraordinarily entertaining game from ordinary things lying around, is truly an art! Thanks to Abhay's Sannaji..... whenever Abhay feels that there is nothing to do, it's  Atlas Anthakshari  to the rescue!!!:-)
Today as Abhay returned to Bangalore, recalling some of  the memorable  moments of his vacation at Shristi, I read "The Wonderful Vacation" a National Book Trust publication by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal and illustrated by Hakim Gulam Mohammad. It was winter vacation and the three siblings, Sushil, Sunita and Sagar felt bored sitting at home. Any suggestion of indoor play or outdoor play by their domestic help or their gardener were met with jaded responses. Sagar hits upon an idea as their gardener's further suggestion to make a bouquet out of the garden flowers ... to gift the bouquet to a place where it will be welcomed and loved - an old age home that was located to close to their house. As they visited the old aged home and delighted the inmates with their home made bouquets, the children were surprised to find the inmates content with their bare minimum existence and hardly any entertainment. Touched by the seniors' warmth, the children decide to put up a performance of a play with the assistance of a theatre enthusiast friend and the people of the neighbourhood who also make a charity show out of it, with funds going into buying the old age home a  tape recorder. Suddenly, the children are bursting with ideas and put their heart and soul into creating, experimenting and improvising so as to make the show a grand success.  So it was a turnaround of sorts with what seemed like a dull vacation transformed into a wonderful vacation, with a little bit of imagination, creativity and community spirit. With illustrations inspired from the art of papier machie, this is a touching value based story that seems like a throwback to the times when we were growing up!   So with an open mind and a little imagination....."there's nothing to do" can always turn into "there's so much to do'........isn't it?? .