Wednesday 21 May 2014

Pratham Books Champion : Storipur

Priya Muthukumar kick starts the TENTASTIC Champions storytelling drive and sends us the first story of this year's campaign. Priya conducted this storytelling session as part of Storipur. As a student counselor and educator, she enjoys all her interactions with kids. Writing, telling stories and simply being with Mother Nature are few of the many things she loves to do! Storipur intends to fill up the gaps, through the ancient art form, storytelling. Sharing stories about environment, countries, societies, cultures and about all ourselves: it's Storipur's humble attempt to build responsible communities.

Telling stories in the outdoors is something I wouldn't give up for anything! Hence, need I explain about the insurmountable joy I had when I got an opportunity to tell a story in the beautiful backdrop of a lake (Kaikondrahalli Lake), with birds chirping , leaves rustling and the cool breeze toying with my hair! I, no doubt, ended up enjoying every bit of the experience.

The theme suggested by the organizers for the storytelling session -inclusion, diversity, sensitivity to the disabled community and conservation. Initially, as a storyteller, everything did sound a wee bit overwhelming to me! I completely fell for the cause, but, how was I supposed to seamlessly stitch inclusion and conservation together? That’s when, one of the organizers sent me a link to a book- the book immediately struck a chord with me. A simple, thin book with a neat storyline- Chuskit goes to school! by Sujatha Padmanabhan published by Pratham Books.

I had read the story over and over again, had discussions with one of the organizers who had lived in Ladakh, I worked on the right pronunciation for words like Ama-ley, Aba-ley etc. used in the story and tried to learn about the trees and birds in Ladakh.

The big day arrived. Kids and adults were eagerly waiting in the amphitheatre, with caps, umbrellas and water bottles to beat the summer heat! Introductions followed by a brief tapping- to- the- rhythm activity which I anchored proved to be a real ice- breaker! I began the story pretending to be little Chuskit looking from behind the curtain, outside the window. I took the audience through Chuskit’s journey, trying to connect with her dreams and aspirations, most importantly with her need, her craving of wanting to go to school, just like all the other kids in Ladakh. Good education is every child’s right! 

The kids were encouraged to interact during the storytelling session and spoke about how it would be, if they never got to go to school. Undoubtedly, the answers were a mixed bag- some said they would be happy, some said they wouldn't like the idea, because they’d miss their friends and their favourite teachers! Laughter, chaos, mischief everything found a place in this story -based discussion.

Now, problem solving…how do we send Chuskit who was in a wheelchair, to school, across the stream?? Yup, after a lot of critical-thinking, my audience decided, that the solution was to build a bridge!

Bingo! So I told them, ‘let’s build the bridge!’ Though, initially surprised, they bought the idea! Kids and few adults rushed to gather stones, twigs … here, there, they ran everywhere! 

There was a strong community feel amongst all of us which surfaced, together, as we made the bridge. Some got a rope, some logs…the bridge was definitely not real, but our efforts and good -will were genuine!

Now, that the bridge was done, some of the kids wanted to test whether the bridge was strong enough to bear the weight of Chuskit’s wheelchair… it was the trial session which followed next. Everybody, tried walking on the bridge, balancing themselves. There were others to hold the ones who were about to trip, losing their balance! Some parents eagerly involved in the making of the bridge, some showed their encouragement by cheering for the little ones! Overall, all of us were beaming with pride when we finished making the not-so-perfect bridge for Chuskit.

 As a storyteller, I don’t believe in moralizing a story. When one shares a story with passion, right from the heart, the story itself manages to convey what needs to be shared! And that’s what happened during this storytelling session, when we joined together as a community to build a bridge for Chuskit. I am sure, in our minds it was a reminder for all of us to build bridges for inclusion despite diversity, as a community.

 And my dear Chuskit, now, it’s going to take a very long time for me to forget you!

Thank you Priya and Storipur for helping us spread the joy of reading!

In 2014, Pratham Books is inviting people to become TENTASTIC Champions. This year's champions initiative is a year-long storytelling drive. Join our tribe of champions and commit to conducting ten storytelling sessions for children during the year (including the main one on International Literacy Day). Lets make reading contagious!

Register to be a TENTASTIC Champion.

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