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Posted at: Feb 1, 2015, 12:44 AM; last updated: Feb 1, 2015, 12:29 AM (IST)CHANDIGARH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE FEST

For the young, by the young

From a Kabuliwala dishing out Indian folklore to dealing with curious tweens in the digital era, the final day of Chandigarh Children’s Literature Fest made a fine blend of the old and the new

Somya Abrol

A child’s world, as full of rainbows and butterflies as it may seem, demands augmentation. While their world continues to shrink with the shrinking number of playgrounds and a swelling desire for gadgets, there’s always the silver lining of folklore and fairytales. Always weighing heavy, however, is the perennial pressure of ‘shaping young minds’, in the minds of those who decide to tread this path through fictional characters. At the Chandigarh Children’s Literature Fest 2015, Life+Style met up with a few such adults who prefer painting a child’s world with covert musings from their own childhood.

With jholla in tow

A theatre artiste for the past 16 years, storyteller Kamal Pruthi has learnt the ease of donning a character so mellifluously that it’s difficult to tell his real self apart. A recipient of the Art Think South Asia Fellowship in 2014, Kamal decided to personify our beloved Kabuliwala — by Rabindranath Tagore — in October 2014. Replete with his Afghani headgear and jholla, Kamal is not the endearing old man we read about while growing up. Instead, he is the messiah of stories that were tenderly lent to us by our grandmothers. 

“The idea is to fill the void left by the absence of a dadi or nani at home, thanks to our nuclear set-up. I talk to the kids about cows, about the khajur ka ped (date tree), about kathal ka phal (jackfruit) — the realities we adults had the privilege of living; the realities our kids are oblivious about,” says 33-year-old Kamal Pruthi.

“Besides the stories I enact for kids — and sometimes adults (young and old) — they stick with me also because of their curiosity towards the Kabuliwala’s jholla. Many a time kids have come to me after the show, wanting to tear open the jholla, only to be disappointed by finding clothes. But, that curiosity keeps me going — to be able to feed their innocent minds some rustic tidbits.”

Tween queen

Growing up, she had questions in her head that she daren’t ask. Now a single mother, author Judy Balan finds it convenient to let her characters ask them for her. The writer of bestselling Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce and Sophie Says: Memoirs of a Breakup Coach, Judy got to write her first children’s book in 2014 with How to Stop Your Grownup from Making Bad Decisions, the first part of a two-part series called Nina the Philosopher. “It’s about an over-thinking tween, who believes that grownups don’t have a clue about what they’re doing. The book is also about grown-ups who don’t know how to act as grown-ups; basically a light book for kids; nothing preachy.”

Drawing inspiration

Animation filmmaker and illustrator Soumya Menon has been working with kids since the age of 20. Now 27, she has to her credited illustrated books for publishers such as Tulika, Pratham Books and children’s magazines. “I started interning with Tulika with three books called Looking at Art for young readers. There on, things took their natural course – I travelled through the North-East – I ended up working with some tribal children from 2007 to 2009, which was very fulfilling. Working with kids from urban India to working with immensely talented kids from tribes – the contrast and life-learnings are stark,” says Soumya.


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