Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bookaroo in the City (Day 1) : A Roaring Start

Have you ever fallen into the pages of a book and fallen off your chair laughing? Have you ever smelled the earth as you see the picture of rain falling on parched mud? Pratham Books brings you such magic in your world with books! Pratham Books is proud to present "Bookaroo in the City" across 22 schools in Delhi. And guess who all are coming? Anthony Horowitz, Cindy Jefferies, Paro Anand, Lian Tanner ....and many other exciting names from the world of books.

On 16th November, as part of the "Bookaroo in the City" program, Pratham Books was spreading the joy of reading in four schools. Well, it was supposed to be just three schools, but the fourth one happened by accident and a happy accident it was! Manisha Chaudhry shares her experience at Rishav Public School.

On a foggy November morning I set out at 7am all excited about it being the first of the 'Bookaroo in the City' events. All the weeks of emailing schools, authors, making schedules, re-confirmatory phone calls, meeting taxi owners and briefing volunteers was coming together at last. I was nervous but pretending to be oh-so-cool-it's-all-in-day's-work-for-me. As I sped towards Paro's farm, a policeman flagged us down and asked to see the taxi's papers. He found something missing and there I was with my cool demeanour in tatters as I began to see disappointed children, traffic jams and my clumsy efforts to put up our grand 'Bookaroo in the City' standee fading away!

But God is kind and taxi drivers are wise and soon Paro and I were whizzing across the Nizamuddin bridge over skeins of pale mist over the Yamuna.

We arrived at a sweet little school next to a mithai pink and pista green Siddhivinayak temple where the plaster of paris cows gazed benignly over grey-sweatered children.

My fears about the standee misbehaving with me were misplaced as two senior students and I had it up in record time! After a quick cup of coffee with the welcoming teachers, we made our way to the cavernous Activity Room of the school in the basement.

Paro soon set it alight with her sheer presence as she launched into a spirited Bhabhloo Bear's Adventure! The first giggles come from Paro's snoring mother bear act as Bhabhloo's head spins with questions. The room lights up a little more.

Out comes a silvered moon from Paro's pitara as Bhabhloo sets off to climb the deodar tree which will enable him to jump to the moon.

One ornamental palm in a pot becomes the deodar as Bhabhloo climbs higher and higher and then as the branches go kadak-kadak and then kidik-kidik... he falls to his doom with a Mummy...y...y...y-....DHUP! You can hear a pin drop in the room.

But then we all know that the story does not end on this sad note. Life stirs again and Bhabhloo becomes the handsome bear with a silvery white V on his chest- quite the Rohit Bal of the bear world, and Paro got a very big round of applause.

She immediately launched into an interactive version of the lion and rabbit which got a thorough revision on the spot! The lion sinking in the well caused much merriment as Paro borrowed my dupatta and gave a running commentary in rhyme.

(I take frantic calls from the other event venue where Swagata ends up doing an unscheduled story telling at the Basti School adjoining the Savera school where the scheduled story session happens thereafter. Two events for the price of one! Lucky children and thank you Swagata! Read about that event here.)

Since it is not good to kill lions any more, even in a story, he is rescued with the help of a tree lowered in the well with beavers, wood peckers and elephants - all getting walk on parts. As the children discuss the qualities of the next king of the jungle, Paro has effortlessly taught us all that Stories Never End. There is always the seed of a new story just waiting...

Did you know that, in Malay, they call milk susu? Well, I learnt this giggle-worthy fact along with 150 bouncing children at Rishav Public School this morning. Paro had the room in splits as she seriously embroidered this fact with how she and her sister had to buy susu which cost money and could be flavoured...even the senior students on duty looked amused!

This well and truly broke the ice as the session came to a thunderingly successful end and Paro was mobbed like she was Salman Khan. Some glory rubbed off on me as I was also asked to autograph many many bits of paper. I was also asked by many students where they could get Bhabhloo Bhaloo and where and how they could send me stories...

What a lovely way to get Bookaroo in the City started...Paro looked tired but happy...the children looked all lit up and lingered in the Activity Room, loth to go back to their class rooms...I think we started something which should go all the way to Books.

Click here to view more images from all the 'Bookaroo in the City' events.

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