A few weeks ago, we held an Urdu Authors' Workshop in Delhi. The workshop was featured by The Hindu.
This past weekend, at a workshop-cum-brainstorming session organised by Pratham Books, 22 Urdu authors, academics and playwrights came up with stories for children based on universal but out-of-the-box themes. The non-profit publisher, which aims to give children access to books written in their mother tongue, organised the workshop for Urdu writers.
Poonam Girdhani, who manages Pratham Books’ Urdu programme, said the aim of the workshop was to encourage writing for children and improving the themes of such writing.
“Among the top themes in children’s literature are kings and queens, detectives or spies, and animals. Plus, all stories end with a message about what an ideal girl or boy should be like,” said Ms. Girdhani.
The participants questioned the need for that kind of message. Urdu research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia Saleha Siddique said stories should make children think and not tell them about good morals.
“We keep telling children that good girls and boys do not do this or that. Why don’t we let them think and understand for themselves,” she asked.
An average of two stories was written by the participants and some may be published by Pratham Books.
“Many children are not autonomous readers. We want them to pick up a book and be interested in the story,” she said.
From stories about everyday objects like the toothbrush to a more heavy subject matter that is the environment, the workshop, held at the Urdu Academy here, left the authors pleased.
One of Ms. Siddique’s stories was about a girl who liked to pluck leaves and flowers, while her mother liked gardening. On a hot day, she takes shelter under a tree and is forced to think about her actions. The next day, her mother finds her watering the household plants.