Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Walk in the Wild

The second edition of #PhoneStories launches on 26th January, 2018. Bijal Vachharajani takes us down memory lane and shares how the books for the first edition of #PhoneStories came to life. 

The forest guard put up his hand and told us to listen carefully. “Khau khau khak”, we heard a coughing noise. It was a langur warning the forest of Ranthambhore that the tiger was around. Moments later, she stepped out - the tigress, a burnished gold and ebony, shining in the weak morning sunlight. The forest erupted into sound and that’s when you realise, whether it’s the langur, the spotted deer or the barking deer, the forest has its own warning system to alert the furred and feathered denizens.

 Now many years later, I was thrilled that we got the chance to commission and edit a story on these different alarm calls. Conservation writer Sejal Mehta wrote Watch Out! The Tiger is Here, for Pratham Books, weaved sound with her words to recreate this wondrous moment. And then environment cartoonist, Rohan Chakravarty of Green Humour, infused the words with his fantabulous illustrations. The team chuckled and giggled as each illustration came in. (Don’t miss the tiger’s expression at the very end of the first book.)

What we were looking for is simple, short stories that we could release as #PhoneStories. We wanted powerful visuals with sounds that would invite children to visit the Indian forest virtually. Watch Out! is the first in the wildlife series – Did You Hear? is about birds and bird songs, Wild Cat! Wild Cat! is about the different wild cats of India, and Who Ate All That Up? is about how the forest stays so clean!

Aparna Kapur (the assistant editor on the project) and I wanted to introduce children to the wildlife of India. Pratham Books wanted something that children across the country could access in different formats. Rohan Joshi added his voice to the project and our kickass translation team got to work, getting these stories in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil and Kannada.

And that’s exactly what happened. WhatsApp messages and YouTube links took these stories to 2,800 Schools/ Centres and teachers impacting over 56,000 children. You could read the books on StoryWeaver, you could listen to them, and you could see them as audio-visualbooks. And now, you can read them in print.

The other day, a friend sent me a video of his daughter watching the first book on his mobile phone. We couldn’t help but beam as we saw her yelling “langur” and then cooing in delight as the tiger came into focus. Our outreach team sent videos and photos – children coughing like the monkey and growling like the tiger, drawing different kinds of birds, and laughing with the stories. 

Our walk in the wild had begun. 

 Bijal Vachharajani is a consultant editor with Pratham Books


If you missed the first edition of #PhoneStories, you can watch them all below :




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