Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bookaroo in the City (Day 8) : Rabani Garg and Tanya Luther Agarwal

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 several schools in Delhi.


While looking at the Bookaroo in the City schedule, I had planned on attending Rabani Garg's session. It would actually have been the first session I would have witnessed after arriving in Delhi. Unfortunately, the schedule was changed because of a school holiday. Fortunately, I did get to witness Rabani's storytelling session.

Iswarya (the Bookaroo in the City volunteer) and I drove through the lovely streets surrounding Lodhi Gardens to pick up Rabani. And we begun on the long drive to an MCD School in Rohini. The long commute times actually allow the volunteers to learn more about the storyteller they will be working with.  Rabani told us more about the Reading Caterpillar - a reading club she had started for children. 

Apart from one story, Rabani had not come with a fixed plan on how she was going to conduct the session. She would figure out which story to tell after seeing how old the kids were. Once again, we were driving around in circles in search for the school. After being directed to the most famous channa-batura walla in that area and being subjected to the hunger-inducing smells wafting from the shop, we were then directed to the school (and our stomachs growled in protest!). A big impressive school stood in front of us.   

As the kids and we settled down, another incident occurred. There was some confusion about the unit tests being conducted and the children were almost taken away from the room. Thankfully, the kids stayed back, the confusion got sorted out and it was time to listen to stories!

Questioning the kids on whether they believed stories were true or false, Rabani warned them to hold on to their seats. "Why?", she asked. "Because sometimes children go so deep into a story that they can't come out of it", she said. The curious yet innocent children actually held on to the mats they were sitting on. 

Sitting on the chair placed in front of the children, Rabani broke into a song. The session had started! Through two different stories, we heard about how 'truth' found a place in stories. Rabani modulated her voice, hopped around the room and all eyes and ears were on her. The children begged for 'ek aur story'. Rabani took out the large pictures she had painted on charts and told her story. As each pictured was revealed, the children got involved in the storytelling process. The pictures were displayed in a row for the children to see and these pictures acted as cues for the children to participate in the story. They listened keenly, sang loudly and smiled gleefully. 


Rabani admitted that she had conducted several storytelling sessions for children but had never met such an engaged audience. Bidding us farewell after handing us thank you cards, the children trooped out. The session ended with a plate of samosas - ending the hunger that Iswarya and me had been experiencing since morning (we had skipped breakfast, been made hungrier by the smell of chole-batture and all of Rabani's stories included food). So, our hunger had ended and the children's hunger for stories and books had just begun! Having met the librarian and the zonal incharge, we knew that the kids would not be deprived from devouring books. Cheers to storytellers who spark the hunger for stories and to empowered teachers who make sure that the kids make the most of the resources available!

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Debahuti Brahmachari writes about the session conducted by Tanya Luther Agarwal (via Bookaroo blog) ...

I was very happy with the venue this time as it was my campus. So, I knew that there would be no early alarms ringing. But I began feeling happy too soon as the news came that there are three KV’s all around the place. The venue was not at all clear till the very next day. Adding to this confusion was the fact that the author was unreachable. I knew that this was a plot by my alarm clock as it did not like the comfortable and cozy relation I shared with my bed. Urgh!!!

So I was all red in the eyes with no clue about the venue or the author. I was all set to read out the stories to the kids if no answers were received within the next half an hour.


Soon Pallavi texted me the author's new number. I buzzed Tanya Luthra Agarwal. She was all set and met me with a sparkling smile on her face. Elegantly dressed in green, we had a brief conversation about her eight year long journey as an author. Her kids being her greatest critics gave her the inspiration to come out with the best within her.

The head mistress welcomed us with full energy as the kids settled down and looked excited. As Tanya started off with her sweet little story about ‘bulbulli, the restlessness gradually stopped. Intrigued by her presence and her stories, the students were already on their way to the discovery of ‘Masala Chai’. And despite the sun's rays blocking their view, the little boys sitting at one corner were completely captivated by the author’s voice.

As the stories ended the kids came to the stage to share their views about the stories and what they learnt from it. They all thanked the amazing storyteller as well as me and rushed to us for a perfect picture at the very end.


You can read about all the Bookaroo in the City sessions here. You can also view more pictures here.

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