The Kala Ghoda Children’s Literature Festival – Part 3 aka “Are We There Yet?”

With my replacement phone deciding to conk off and the Internet deciding to play dead, technology really had it out for me last week. The boycott effectively delayed the third and final part of the lit fest updates.

On Friday, we had only one event thanks to the second author going through withdrawal symptoms of his own. But Wisha Wozzariter was an utterly delightful book that I was very excited for the kids to read. Payal Kapadia came armed with bright yellow bookmarks, book-based activity sheets and her two costumed kids in tow. Her daughters acted well enough to put professionals to shame and Payal’s enthusiasm was clearly contagious.

Starring the two junior Kapadias as the titular Wisha Wozzariter and her new friend, the Bookworm

Starring the two junior Kapadias as the titular Wisha Wozzariter and her new friend, the Bookworm

She even got a tattoo artist along for the kids to get a temporary Wisha on their arms. Three of the organisers and me were much more excited than all the kids combined and had to constantly remind each other that we couldn’t push the kids out of line to get our tattoos first. After a seemingly endless wait, get our tattoos we did and showed them off proudly to all and sundry after some inordinate squealing.

Mine matched the t-shirt I was wearing

Mine matched the t-shirt I was wearing

Saturday was our most packed day yet with two events in the morning and another two in the evening. The first was for our tiniest kids based on the book 366 Words In Mumbai by Mirabelle D’Cunha.

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The bubbly author led the kids through a fun session around the words and places of the city and, in the end, staged an impromptu laundry dance that had the kids and their parents get their groove thing on (I may or may not have said groove thaang in an exaggerated accent in my head). You should definitely watch the fun video here mostly because I can’t figure out how to embed it here.

For our next event, we had theatre personality Loveleen Mishra gloriously narrating three fun stories in Hindi.

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Our evening events were held on the grounds of the Prince of Wales Museum and attracted an alarming number of people. Luckily for us, we had a star storyteller in attendance who had the audience (both kids and grown ups, heck even us organisers!) hooked on to her every word. Deepa Balsavar launched her Round and Round book, a thoroughly unique set of books that have neither any words nor any limits on the number of stories a parent or child can come up with. I was so busy distributing headgear (that I had helped glue, thankyouverymuch) that I completely forgot to click a picture of the author herself. But a diligent blogger has recorded the event here.

The storyteller Jeeva Raghunath, who brilliantly demonstrated how the book could be used, was an instant hit.

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She kept the crowds of parents and children thoroughly entertained.

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After a Pepsi break, she returned to dazzle the audience with a session of her own with lively enactments and audience interaction. My favourite part was meowing with wild abandon, although I was slightly envious of the group that had been assigned to bray like donkeys. A crowd favourite, she was mobbed by admiring parents when all her hijinks came to an end.

Exhibit B

On the last day of the fest, a Kala Ghoda shaped hole was quickly entering my life. But I didn’t have time to greet it with dismay because of all the chaos of running from pillar to post looking for The National Gallery of Modern Art where two of our events were being held. For a geographically challenged person like myself, finding a hitherto unseen place presents certain challenges that the need for punctuality does nothing to dispel. When I get there, I find that the kids have been relegated to a tiny corridor to listen to Miss Muglee Goes To Mumbai and make Miss Muglee paper bags. To her credit, co-author Shaheen Mistry took it in her stride, and narrated the tale of a crocodile in a big city with great aplomb.

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To my absolute delight, my favourite fest participant (she of the previously-mentioned quirky outfits and plastic glasses) took a shine to my shorts-and-t-shirt ensemble of the previous evening (an outfit in the loosest sense of the word) and decided to don on a similar outfit of her own! Her mom, who told me the tale, was disappointed I hadn’t repeated my sartorial choice, which I most certainly would have had the slightest idea of what lay ahead of me.

This completely adorable specimen is called Mariam. The crocodile is called Miss Muglee

This completely adorable specimen is called Mariam. The crocodile is called Miss Muglee

We had two simultaneous events after this and I hurried to the one at Kitab Khana. Deepal Dalal, author of nature and adventure stories for kids, and Bittu Sahgal, founding editor of the Sanctuary Asia magazine conducted a wildlife writing session for slightly older kids.

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After instructing the kids how it was done, the two showed them photographs of gorgeous birds and majestic wild cats and encouraged them to describe the fauna in terms worth any wildlife writer’s salt.

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And in the blink of an eye (or the whimper of a tiger’s prey?), the fest was done. What I got out of the entire event was a boxful of great memories, a chance to spend time with some of my favourite people and, as I discovered last week, a new job. Come March 1st, I’ll be dipping my feet into the waters of the publishing world. A world of books? That doesn’t sound too shabby.


Rhyme and Reason: February 24, 2013

Perhaps it was the oxygen deprivation, but I was rather lost in my own little world when Deirdre grabbed my arm just before I was about to go under again and said in a husky tone: ‘Look out! There’s a bluey.’

Glenn took on an immediate expression of alarm. ‘Where?’

‘What’s a bluey?’ I asked, appalled to discover that there was some additional danger I hadn’t been told about.

‘A bluebottle,’ she explained and pointed to a small jellyfish of the type (as I later learned from browsing through a fat book titled, if I recall, Things That Will Kill You Horridly in Australia: Volume 19) known elsewhere as a Portuguese man-of-war. I squinted at it as it drifted past. It looked unprepossessing, like a blue condom with strings attached.

‘Is it dangerous?’ I asked.

Now before we hear Deirdre’s response to me as I stood there, vulnerable and abraded, shivering, nearly naked and half drowned, let me just quote from her subsequent article in the Herald:

While the photographer shoots, Bryson and boogie board are dragged 40 metres down the beach in a rip. The shore rip runs south to north, unlike the rip further out which runs north to south. Bryson doesn’t know this. He didn’t read the warning sign on the beach.* Nor does he know about the bluebottle being blown in his direction – now less than a metre away – a swollen stinger that could give him 20 minutes of agony and, if he’s unlucky, an unsightly allergic reaction to carry on his torso for life.

*The statement is inarguable. However, the author would like the record to show that he did not have his glasses on; he trusted his hosts; he was scanning a large area of ocean for sharks; and he was endeavouring throughout not to excrete a large housebrick into his pants.

‘Dangerous? No,’ Deirdre replied now as we stood gawping at the bluebottle. ‘But don’t brush against it.’

‘Why not?’

‘Might be a bit uncomfortable.’

I looked at her with an expression of interest bordering on admiration. Long bus journeys are uncomfortable. Slatted wooden benches are uncomfortable. Lulls in conversations are uncomfortable. The sting of a Portuguese man-of-war – even people from Iowa know this – is agony. It occurred to me that Australians are so surrounded with danger that they have evolved an entirely new vocabulary to deal with it.

Bill Bryson, Down Under

Of Cabbages and Kings: February 17, 2013

I’ve spent the week researching Santa Claus and fairy tales and watching Boy Meets World (a decade too late) and Rugrats. How old am I again?**

she reads

Photo courtesy here.

There’s been some Harry Potter book news after what seems likes eons. After Scholastic’s sneak peek at the 15th anniversary covers for the series’ American editions, here are a few fan-made renditions.

I think cellphones are complete nuisances and would happily toss mine in the sea if my friends and family would promise not to have collective heart attacks. Until that day comes, these brutally honest text message auto-replies should keep me happy.

Because Calvin and Hobbes are way too cool to remain in their comic world, here they are up to shenanigans in real-life photographs.

If any species from the animal kingdom comes close to sharing my love for dogs, it’s penguins. And this video of a penguin intersection in Antarctica is just the bee’s knees. (Ha! I’ve always wanted to use that phrase)

I strongly suspect that the reason I can spend hours gazing at gorgeous photographs is due to my lack of any photographic talent whatsoever. Steve McCurry, my favourite clicker of portraits, displays two of my favourite things – reading and writing.

Slate thinks Amanda McKittrick Ros may have been the worst novelist in history.

If you haven’t read this story yet, the headline should prove reason enough: For 40 years, this Russian family was cut off from all human contact, unaware of WWII.

These group of friends have spent 23 years locked in a game of “Tag”. What is the procedure to start a similar game of one’s own?

And, finally, as a public interest announcement, 32 of the greatest things that have happened on Tumblr.

**“We are always the same age inside.” – Gertrude Stein