Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bookaroo in the City (Day 7) : Trailing along the Tagore Tale

If you are wondering why we are still talking about Bookaroo in the City and Bookaroo, it is because we were having too much fun and were as ecstatic as the children that we didn't have enough time to blog about the events. So, please bear with us as we continue to talk about all the lovely events we were attending. Indira Ganesh talks about one such event she volunteered for :

Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and a cold rain soaked morning. Students of class six and class seven were gathered in a huge auditorium to listen to a play by Tagore. A play with a name as intriguing as ---'The Parable of the Last Post Office'. While the children were being summoned from their classes, another drama was unfolding on parallel lines at the Hazrat Nizammudin Railway station where Parnab Mukherjee was arriving from Udaipur after a Theatre workshop to tell the tale to the assembled audience in the auditorium. Morning traffic being minimal, everything fell in place beautifully and yet another scintillating journey started with Bookaroo in the City, 2010. Pratham Books were bringing the event to where the children were and the children across ages and across social denominations were getting connected to the stories being told. The oral tradition that is so much a part of our collective heritage was being resuscitated and revived. And the way children were taking to books and stories, one can safely assume that reading is here to stay.

What are we marking this year for in the context of Tagore? Who was known by the epithet Kabiguru? Which Nobel laureate started a University in India? This fact oriented introduction by Rajesh of Pratham Books paved the way for the actual presentation where Parnab Mukherjee enacted the story of young Amol who was slowly withering away physically but persistently pursued his dream despite being ridiculed by others as a maverick and a mad person. Even though the protagonist dies in the end, his end is peaceful and filled with hopes and dreams. A very unusual story, by master story teller Rabindranath Tagore about the inevitability of death and the acceptance of this stark reality with a calm dignity. The apprehension of death need not take away the anticipation of what life has to offer. This story was inspired by a diary kept by a professor in a Nazi camp where young inmates found solace in enacting a play on similar lines during their most trying days. Parnab who enacted this play and who garnished the original tale with contemporary flourishes is a master at his craft. Being a journalist by profession and someone who has a passion for theatre, he inspired the youngsters to follow their heart. The story narration in itself was a joy to behold. The children had to turn 360 degrees to follow the artist as he moved amongst the children to tell the tale. His anecdotes were so witty and contemporary that the students connected immediately to his narration. Even though it dealt with a subject as poignant as death and being quarantined at a young age, it was told as a tale of hope and survival of the human spirit.

Some interesting props like a rope and a native shawl made the play more interesting and visually appealing. Finally the Q&A session with the kids proved to be the icing on the cake. The questions were mainly along four lines. First and foremost there was a lot of curiosity and appreciation for Parnab for having chosen theatre as an avocation. They wanted to know about his inspiration, how he chanced upon theatre, whether it was his vocation as well and as to who made these choices for him. Here we found the children exploring possibilities for themselves beyond the narrow confines of becoming a doctor or an Engineer. The second genre of questions were around the story itself, about its adaptation, narration, choice, time for putting the production together, other works of Tagore, Gandhi, Premchand etc. Here we experienced the literary side of the t(w)eenagers. The third broad category of questions revolved around Parnab’s role as a journalist, his understanding of children affected by conflict in Iraq, Jaffna and North East India where he has spent a lot of time. They also wanted to know about his favourite authors and books. The fourth genre of questions was around the relevance of popular icons like Harry Potter, Ekta Kapoor and Karan Johar in the realm of realistic story telling. Parnab handled all the questions skillfully and his witty repartees won him a lot of admirers. Parnab almost got mobbed during the group photo session as all of them wanted to stand right next to him. So much so that the standy kept there started swaying dangerously. The students gave him a beautiful potted plant and also a tradional card made with handmade paper. A lovely thought provoking session that dispelled the gloom of the weepy weather day. One can only marvel at the genius of the person who wrote more than twelve thousand letters in his lifetime and whose correspondence alone runs across fifteen volumes. That is a far cry for the boy who changed three schools in five days and then decided to give up on formal schooling.

View pictures from all the other Bookaroo events here.

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