Monday, March 28, 2011

Sabha 2011- Books in many Indian languages



What a lovely gathering we had at Sabha 2011 in Bangalore! And what a wonderful feeling it was to be actually hugging or shaking hands with people who have helped create all our books! The beautiful grounds of the National Gallery of Modern Art was perfect to meet our guests as we sipped on hot coffee and tea.

In this wired or wireless world, many of our authors, illustrators, translators and reviewers work independent of each other, and hardly ever get to meet each other. "Oh my, did HE do the illustrations for my book?" asked an author as she rushed to the illustrator who had complemented her words with colourful pictures.

"I never thought a story I wrote would be read by so many millions of children!" said an author after she saw a presentation about Pratham Books.

For all our friends who could not attend, and for all those interested in the creation of books for children, here is a short report of the proceedings at Sabha 2011.

After the introduction and welcome address, Chairperson Rohini Nilekani made the keynote address. Talking about how book lovers were able to get transported into brilliant private worlds, she said passionately that every child deserved to have her own private world. She added that in a country such as ours, the only way to reach most of the children was to have books in many, many Indian languages and in as low a price as possible.

This was followed by a presentation about Pratham Books by Managing Trustee Suzanne Singh. The facts and figures, the places that our books have gone, and the people who are using them in different ways was an eye-opener to many in the audience.

The panel discussion was on the topic 'The Joys and Challenges of Creating Multi-lingual Content for Children'. Poet and playwright Mamta Sagar talked about how we need to enter a new world to be able to write for children. One has to listen to children when they talk and when they play, to catch the flavour of their voice. It is only when we observe children that we can create books that they will like. Author and Managing Trustee of Akshara Foundation, Kanchan Bannerjee spoke about how children learnt a language. Journalist and my fellow-editor Sandhya Taksale showed how our books were being read by children in different parts of the country. Later, New Projects Manager Gautam John talked about our philosophy of creating content that was free to be used and reused in many innovative ways so as to reach a larger readership.

There were many questions and stories from our guests. "It was fun to see my son reading a book while his grandmother translated the same simultaneously into his mother tongue, while the grandfather enacted the story," said Kavitha. Should the word 'Goodnight' in an English book be translated into 'Shubh ratri' in the Hindi translation? What about 'well, well' and Hi? Why can't we have picture books without any words? The language of pictures! Can people download our books on Scibd.com, print them and sell them for a higher price? What kind of fonts are best for children? The questions were many.

The afternoon was rounded off with an interesting lunch under the huge trees at NGMA. The talk here was as enlightening and stimulating as the ones inside the auditorium.

We'd like to thank all our friends who sent in their messages with best wishes, a few of which are included here:

Via Sonali Pota: I would like to keep my self up dated on the happenings in this field and some day find my path to add my little bit to this monumental challenge.

Dr.Hemant Kumar: मुझे लगता है कि हर बच्चे के हाथों तक रंग बिरंगी किताबें पहुंचनी उतनी ही जरूरी हैं जितना कि रंगीन गुब्बारे और सुन्दर खिलौने।

Melinda, Hon Director, www.gyanankur.com : You are encouraging a movement that is necessary and as I oversee two schools primarily for underprivileged kids with impossible budgets and great challenges I see that what you are doing is very significant for our goals...a big THANKS to all your team!!!!

The views and suggestions shared at Sabha are going into a manual on multi-lingual publishing that we are compiling. Thanks to all those who made it to Sabha! And to all those who could not, we hope you'll be there at Sabha 2012.

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