Monday, December 6, 2010

Folk Tales from the Land of the Rising Sun

One of our events at the main Bookaroo festival was conducted by storyteller Valentina Trivedi (who also conducted one of our 'Bookaroo in the City' sessions this year). The storytelling session was based on our book "Grandpa Cherry Blossom and other Folktales from Japan".

We had started preparing for this event a few days before the actual event. Valentina requested us to prepare a cherry blossom tree for her event and in the midst of attending all the Bookaroo in the City events, one could spot people in our office busy trying to figure out how to make paper cherry blossoms. After spending a considerable amount of time trying to create origami flowers and after many YouTube tutorials were followed, we finally mastered the art of creating origami cherry blossoms (Bookaroo taught us much more than we thought we would learn :)). On the day of Bookaroo, we were busy setting up the cherry blossom tree when we heard that the other props that were supposed to be created by someone else had been destroyed by that person's dog (bad doggy!). So, suddenly our team was busy making fish and gold coins for this event. Oh, don't we love last minute chaos?

Suddenly we saw a few kids come to the tree and exclaim that it was a beautiful tree. After a few seconds they realized that the flowers weren't real and that they were actually made out of paper. As they gently touched the flowers and admired the tree, they asked us if we could teach them how to make the flowers. The small little patch we were sitting on was suddenly mistaken as the 'Crafty Corner' at Bookaroo. Kids and parents would come and say "Oh, is this the crafty corner?", "Oh, can you teach our kids these too?". So, the sore fingers and the amount of time spent learning how to make origami flowers paid off eventually. Though, we couldn't teach anyone how to make the flowers (because we were making fish), the tree received enough attention to bring the kids right back to the Kahani Tree to attend Valentina's event.

Valentina started the session by telling the kids the story of a wrestler called the 'Greatest-Mountain'. As she modulated her voice to depict the different characters in the story, her audience giggled, laughed and dove into the story. With her friend also acting out some parts of the story, it was almost like watching a play. She had the kids in splits by the time she ended the story and all of them jumped up to imitate the strong wrestler whose footsteps could create an earthquake. As the children stomped and yelled, it did seem like an earthquake of smiles was erupting.

But, the storytelling session was not going to end so soon. Valentina started telling us a story without revealing the title of this story. The story involved two brothers - a greedy and rich one (elder brother) and a poor but kind-hearted one(younger brother). Unable to find food on New Year's eve, the younger one went looking for some food. On the way, he meets a woodcutter who reveals a secret to him and helps him acquire a magical grinding stone from a bunch of goblins. Valentina is truly a gifted storyteller who drags you into the story. There isn't a moment when you don't believe that she isn't the character she is playing at that time. With the help of the props, Valentina stirred the magical pot and chanted like the younger brother in the story does. Rice flew out of the makeshift grinding stone and the kids gasped in disbelief. "How did the rice fly out?", said a few. And before they knew it, fish and gold coins were flying out of the grinding stone. The kids were so excited that they jumped towards Valentina and the grinding stone to collect the fish and fake gold coins that were being thrown out of it. One kid even asked his mum if he should collect some rice for her. Their faces lit up and it was like watching a magic show (some of the extremely curious kids did discover the assistant hiding behind the cauldron though :)). After the kids settled down, Valentina continued the story and went on to reveal why the sea is so salty. It was great to see the huge crowd that had assembled to watch Valentina's splendid performance. We even spotted Mahmood Farooqui (a Dastangoi performer), Mariam Karim-Ahlawat (an author) and a few other authors amongst the audience.

As the kids trooped away with big smiles (and some trooped away with the fish and gold coins) and we chatted with Valentina, she enquired about Hema Pande (the author of the book). Hema ji was supposed to have come sometime during the event, but due to horrible traffic, she missed the entire event. But Valentina stuck around till Hema ji arrived and they both met. Valentina told her everything about the session and the best moment was when Valentina got up and started enacting a few scenes for Hema ji. The smile on Hema ji's face was as big as the smiles on the faces of the children who attended the event.

You can view pictures from all the Bookaroo events here.

And for all the parents and kids who promised to visit our blog in order to learn how to make a paper cherry blossom, click here to see the tutorial we followed.






From left to right (standing): Valentina Trivedi, Manisha Chaudhry
From left to right (sitting): Hema Pande, Sampurna Murti

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