Thursday, October 9, 2014

Constitution Can Be Fun! – Justice Seth’s Session at This Year’s BLF

It was a full house. Not the bright sun and neither the distance of the venue from the main city deterred the enthusiastic children who gathered at the Bangalore Literature Festival on the Saturday morning of 27th September. After all, it was no small deal. It was probably one of those rare chances when one could meet and listen to former Justice Leila Seth read out a part of her book.

Justice Leila Seth was the first woman judge on the Delhi High Court and the first woman to become Chief Justice of a High Court. She is also the mother of the famed author, Vikram Seth.

‘We the Children’, written by Justice Leila Seth and illustrated by the late Bindia Thapar, made the relatively dry subject of citizenship palatable. At the BLF session, Justice read out from the Hindi version of the book called ‘Hum Bharat Ke Bachhe, Hamara Savindhaan ki Uddeshika’ published by Pratham Books.

Justice Seth started the session with an ice-breaker asking kids how old they think she was. Some said, 70, some even said 100! When she told them she was born when the British were still in India, there were some gasps from the audience. The kids were extra attentive, now that the seniority of the speaker was firmly established. 

Justice Seth proceeded by talking about how the Constitution came into being and who helped in shaping it up. She told the kids how proud she felt when she touched the actual book that is the Indian Constitution, safely harboured in the Library of the Indian Parliament in Delhi. Her entire session had a splattering of stories, both funny and insightful. Children were especially in splits when she narrated how the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was in such a hurry to sign the Preamble that he didn't leave any space for the President to sign. 

She also took some questions from the young audience. The questions ranged from some innocent ones about the national Flag and our Independence day to some deep ones about the need and role of the Constitution in our country.

The session ended with her reciting a poem from the book, followed by the children.She also signed all the books that the guests wanted to get signed at the author's lounge with great patience, always with a smile.

I, for one, was absolutely stumped by the energy and passion of Justice Leila Seth at the age of 84. She was at the venue before time, met and spoke with everyone who wanted to have a word, conducted the entire session standing up and refused any help or assistance of any kind. I may have finally found my role model.

The book is available for sale in 5 languages. Buy the book.

A full house
Justice Seth in action
Audience interaction

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