All good things must start with a story. And the National Storytelling Week must of course start with a brilliant one.
This story I’m going to tell you, has stayed with me from when I was six or seven. I was a very fussy eater and one of the vegetables I didn’t like to eat was the purple brinjals (or the white ones for that matter).
Many of the stories in my Prince Veera series are reimagined versions of such stories about Emperor Akbar and Birbal, King Krishnadeva Raya and his trusted friend Tenali Rama.
Listen to the story and enjoy! If you like it, do pass it along. Because a hand-me-down story is the best kind there is!
I’m so excited! No it’s not just the elections. Speaking of which, did you cast your vote yet?
Alice Fernbank and I have been working on a new drama project based on A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom ever since I visited Cranford Park Academy where the kids were keen to dramatize it.
I met Alice in a masterclass with storyteller extraordinaire Jan Blake. Alice and I hit it off rightaway and though we told markedly different stories, we liked each others style. Our easy collaboration came to life when we had to mimic a scene without talking and we had a hilarious time doing it. And Jan called me Born to be a Clown! Really? Me?
One thing led to another, we talked, we discussed, we dreamt and then we got another one of our masterclass friends Greg McCormick involved too.
A Dollop of Dramawas born for real – A workshop to bring to life the characters and stories in the book A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom (Walker Books, UK). The story makes speaking, reading, talking and of course interpreting of written language so much fun. I love Veera and Suku and their irreverent sense of humour and my readers always have told me they want to have similar adventures.
There you go – now you can. We planned the workshop for KS2 where we could bring the book into the schools, teach children how to create and bring a character to life, read and speak dialogue and match it with their body language too.
Greg then kindly offered to take pictures of us playing the part. We dressed up as Veera and Suku and the people of Himtuk, we made costumes, we made paper swords, we enacted scenes, we fell on the floor in a heap laughing at our own antics – while Greg was patiently setting up the lighting and camera angles.
On this 7th day of May in the year 2015, we launched the workshops.
You can now bring us into your schools to work with your KS2 children. Imagine children getting fired up to read a book so they could play a part in the drama workshop, imagine them reading and talking dialogue and interpreting the words into action and body language. Every English and Drama teacher’s dream come true. But then literacy is always more than just English, isn’t it? Reading prescription to election manifestos, literacy in primary schools is literacy for life.
Interested? Want to know more? Check out the details here and get in touch.
My first session of the day was at 10:30 am and I had to get to central Delhi from Gurgaon, a neighbouring town where I had gone that morning to meet friends from Duckbill Books and a brilliant breakfast. In spite of the numerous warnings about traffic jams, I got back in plenty of time.
At first, the Amphitheatre was empty – after all, it was Sunday 10:30 am – and I thought most people would have a lie-in, a late breakfast and perhaps some newspaper browsing. But eager readers from New Delhi came in droves just in time for the session.
The first session was IDEA BLASTER – we were going to take off into StoryWorld with things we can find around us.
With the help of the young people in the audience and some grownups who were brave enough to reply, we built three stories out of nothing but our imagination and some prompts from the world around us.
Our first story was about an eagle called Narangi – because it was orange in colour and it was stuck inside the Matti Ghar that was on the premises.
The second story involved Astro-Cat fighting with a superhero to take control of Mars.
The third story involved an Astro-Mutt and a cartoon superhero villain with gadgets.
All in all, we had super-fun.
Then I had some time to make sure I get some selfies with writers and friends I had met during Bookaroo and visiting the illustrator gallery. More on that in tomorrow’s post.
The afternoon session was a wildcard – it was about story shapes – but it was right after lunch. Would people listen? Would children fidget and want to run about?
I was scheduled to start at the Kahani Tree and there was already a big audience seated there. Then as I welcomed them, many opted to stay back, much to my joy (and relief?)
We did long stories, tall stories, never-ending stories and counting stories.As we began the story of the biggest liar, we tested the waters and found out how well the children can imagine.
They made up stories about themselves – being a princess, a fairy, a dragon, a superhero – even the littlest ones had a lie to tell. Then I told them the story of the biggest liar (A Tall Story).
We followed that with the never-ending story – the story about the twins Only and Again.
We talked about stories about going home, journeys and landscapes with Where is Gola’s Home? which was a big hit with all ages – they were busy trying to spot the various characteristics of riversides, beaches, deserts and jungles.
I like counting like every other 7-year old. So I told them the story of the 11 travellers. But we didn’t just tell the story – we played it out. We had 11 eager volunteers up front who were being counted. We had a wise girl solve their counting problems.
The crowd was hungry for more – so we did another counting story with Birbal and the crows in Delhi – an apt story for a Delhi Bookaroo!
That was my last session at 2014 Bookaroo and I hope to come back again and meet more readers and budding writers.
Bookaroo had begun. It was the 29th of November 2014. The launch of Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market was scheduled for 3 pm. I had a nice lie-in and then decided to go to the pool to write and prepare for the event.
But it wasnot to be. The lovely pool manager decided that I might enjoy some blaring music at 10 am and switched on the loudspeakers. I retreated to the safety of my room which was a good thing because I decided to tell the story and practice the song.
The cleaners were on the corridor and must have been terribly confused by the noise coming out of my room with nursery rhymes and sounds from the story.
I reached Bookaroo venue quite early and met up with my editor Nithya who had come all the way from Chennai for the event. We took charge of The Stage 30 minutes before the event and started getting ready.
The crowd was building up and we started at three with a massive countdown with the support of the audience. Then we sang Farmer Falgu Had a Farm – a remastered version of the Old MacDonald had a Farm with AiyaaahyayyyaYo! Then we told the story from the first book Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip.
Each child in the audience was given a raffle ticket and we put the tickets in a hat and pulled out a number. The lucky winner was the receiver of the first book of Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market.
After the official launch, we counted down in Hindi this time and then I told the story of the second book ending with a fantastic recipe for an omelette – we chopped, we broke eggs and we sizzled under the warmth of the winter sun in Delhi. Then we sanga new song that I had written for the second book.
A very big crowd, a very participative audience of children and parents and a good queue for signing – what else does an author want for a launch?
I’m new to Bookaroo! But I felt right at home the minute I walked in through the gates. I was a bit early – you can tell when I am over-enthusiastic that I couldn’t sleep longer and couldn’t hang around the hotel more.
The grounds were getting ready, volunteers were arriving and soon bus-loads of school kids were brought in and let loose amongst authors.
I had met some of the authors the previous evening at a SCBWI India event organised by Anushka Ravishankar of Duckbill books. And I met more on my first Bookaroo event day. I met with Anita, the wonderful editor and publisher at Young Zubaan and met with one of the most wonderful illustrator Priya Kurian – the illustrator of Where is Gola’s Home?
I met writers and illustrators from India, Sweden, Australia, Germany, Singapore and of course UK too. A lot of names to connect with on Social Media and meet in future festivals.
I was thrilled and honoured to meet Eileen Brown and Jamila Gavin. I am proud to say Jamila even bought Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip and I signed it for her grandkids.
My session was in an open space on the grounds and apart from the kids and teachers from the German school, I also had a visitor with feathers – an eagle. I had two wonderful volunteers who were so excited, they joined in eagerly.
We talked about long python like stories and tall giraffe like stories. We made up tall tales and every student and teacher in the audience was able to participate. We had loads of fun because we were all good at making up stories and tall tales.
The session was filled with stories too. I told them the story of “catching the hound” from Mississippi and the Counting Story from India and of course Farmer Falgu paid a visit too and told them about his trip to find silence.
After a great lunch we all were packed into three cars and taken to see Old Delhi. We went through narrow streets, walked into old buildings, shamelessly took pictures of selling beads and old doors and brightly painted windows. The street was filled with so many tiny shops and each shop was filled with millions of beads in hundreds of bags. Then we walked through a tiny street selling food where they deep-fried bread with fillings twice – and then went to the spice street.
After inhaling a lot of smoke and spice filled air, we left the streets to the safety and comfort of our air-conditioned hotel rooms.
Day 0 ended with a wonderful party organised for all attending writers, illustrators, editors, publishers and sponsors.
Tomorrow is a special day. Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market will be launched at Bookaroo. I received my first set of copies on Thursday of the new book. More tomorrow after the launch itself.