Thursday, March 1, 2012

Our Kala Ghoda Experience

Sandhya Taksale, Editor, Pratham Books, writes about her experience at this year's Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is an annual celebration of music, dance, theatre, literature and other art forms. The 13th edition of this vibrant festival was held between 4 - 12 February in Mumbai. The popularity of the KGAF is growing by the years. On the last two days it seemed like the entire population of Mumbai was at Kala Ghoda and it was impossible to walk. Official count says that 7 lakh people attended this festival as against 4 lakh last year.

Pratham Books had a stall at this festival and also conducted three interesting events on 11th February. The stall was just next to the entrance and it was crowded with kids and parents all the time. The books just flew off the shelves. Our Level 1 books and bilinguals were the crowd's favourite and the demand for English books exceeded availability. There were hardly any English books left on the last day. Our Marathi and Gujarati books were also quite popular.

For the events on 11th February, the venue was the garden of David Sassoon library - a beautiful and quiet place .The kids of Pratham, Mumbai made their enthusiastic entrance in the afternoon. They were going to perform the Ramleela skit from our Kallu's World series. Soon, the kids were ready :  Hanuman with his red mouth and long tail, Ravan with his frightening face and Mandodari draped in Sari. It was a short skit but the children enjoyed it.

After that we had a story telling session of ‘Nayana and the not-so-scary owl’ by author Anita Vachharajani. Shilpa Ranade, illustrator of this newly published book, was also there. In an interactive session she showed images of the book on her laptop and told children how the artwork was developed. Then, children drew owls on paper. Initially most of them copied the owl from the book but after a while, they started drawing their own owls. It was interesting to see children drawing and  surrounding Shilpa.


This was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Children’s Literature in Multilingual Scenario’ which I moderated. We had an esteemed panel of four people who take extreme joy in writing and illustrating for children - Abid Surti, Anita Vaccharajani , Sonja Chandrachud and Indu Harikumar.

Abid Surti is a much respected national award winner senior author, playwright, illustrator and cartoonist. His books have been translated into various languages. As a cartoonist he has created highly original and lovable characters like Dhabbuji and Bahadur. Anita Vachharajani has been published by Pratham Books, Puffin, Scholastic, and Mango Books. She translates from Marathi, Gujarati and Hindi into English,  She has translated Gujarati folktales compiled by Gijubhai Badheka and illustrated and retold by Aabid Surti.

Indu Harikumar is a Mumbai-based children’s writer, illustrator and craft teacher. She has worked with various publishing houses; including Pratham Books. She has contributed to various children’s magazines in English, Hindi and Malayalam.

Sonja Chandrachud is a Penguin India author and she is known as the Desi Rowling. Sonja’s first two novels are a fun filled fantasy series. Her latest series - DOA Detective Files are about ancient historical times filled with mysterious murders and lost treasures.

The first round of questions started with writing in English verses and writing in other Indian languages. Abid Surti has been widely published in many languages but he prefers to write in Hindi as he says it is near to his heart. Whatever he wants to say comes out well in his own language. Anita Vaccharajani agreed with this and said, authors who write in their own language can write very powerfully. Unfortunately urban parents and kids have English as their primary language and we write and read in English.

 

The panel thought that translation of the books in regional languages could be the answer. At the same time, it is not easy. According to Abid Surti, it is no less than original writing. Translation is a very challenging job and has to be done very seriously. The experiences of Pratham Books and how translations help in spreading joy of reading across India were also shared.

Sonja talked about 'Fantasy in Children’s Writing' and said that fantasy is going to stay in the coming years. The panel unanimously agreed that if the printed books are interesting, then e-books are not a threat at all. Why should children read boring books? 

The discussion was really interesting but unfortunately a scanty audience showed up for this event. Overall, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival was a joyful and refreshing experience. The topic of how could engage a child in more and more creative ways was predominantly on our minds when we left.

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