The Kala Ghoda Children’s Literature Festival 2014 – Day 1

Like last year, I’m volunteering for the Kala Ghoda Children’s Literature Festival. And like last year, this year’s fest began with a play staged by Gillo Theatre Repertory. The book they decided to adapt was Catch That Crocodile! by Anushka Ravishankar. It tells the tale of a crocodile loose in the village and several villagers’ failed attempts at getting rid of him. 

And judging by the amount of fun both kids and parents (not to mention us organisers!) had, it turned out to be a hit.

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All the actors were brilliant.

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Their antics had the kids gasping and giggling at all the right places.

photo 9The setting of the recently refurbished gardens at the David Sassoon Library was equally brilliant.

photo 6Since I was busy manning the desk outside, I managed to miss key elements of the play. (None of these photographs have been clicked by me.)

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But the bits that I did catch were bucketloads of fun.

photo 3And they did seem to have caught that crocodile in the end.

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.

The Kala Ghoda Children’s Literature Festival 2013 – Part 2 aka “Can We Retire Already?”

Tuesday is the day when Lady Luck, who had loyally been cheering for us throughout the first three days of the fest, decided to go on a little vacation.

It all began innocently enough. For the first session we had Shabnam Minwalla with her delightful book The Six Spellmakers of Dorabji Street (review coming soon).

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She came in very well prepared, was an enthusiastic reader and had the kids making charm bags as a part of their activity. She even had her adorable daughters come in to help with the story-telling and the craft-making.

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We should have known it was too good to last.

Usually, the trouble with week-long festivals is that while weekends have crowds nearly standing one on top of the other, people don’t make an appearance throughout the rest of the week. To combat this problem, Tuesday boasted our star attraction – film actress Konkona Sen Sharma was all set to become storyteller for the day. The newspapers gave the event sufficient coverage, excited parents registered kids as young as 2 and we had our battle faces on to deal with the inadvertent chaos at the book store.

Except for one tiny thing. She didn’t show up. Her young baby fell ill and she couldn’t get away.

The news spread among the organisers in hushed whispers. We expressed our panic through silent hand gestures and dramatically-raised eyebrows. However, the lovely publishers of Karadi Tales flew to our rescue. The indomitable duo of Shobha Vishwanath (the owner of the publishing house) and Anushka Ravishankar (author extraordinaire) saved the day with their brilliant rendition of The Rumour written by the aforementioned Anushka. Poor Anushka had come to the city expecting to conduct a single session on Sunday and ended up being ferried to three schools for more sessions and having to fill in as a last minute replacement in front of nearly a hundred kids.

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They also brought along a singer and a musician. There were too many kids for all of them to hear and sing along to the song but it was a fun session nevertheless.

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Wednesday had another fun evening in store. We had two mystery (with a little bit of history and adventure thrown in) authors holding the stage, we had a decent number of attendees and we heaved a collective sigh of relief. Sonja Chandrachud spoke about the second book in her DOA Detective Files series – Revenge of the Pharaoh.

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She also had a quiz going with correct answers being rewarded with gold (chocolate) coins. Maybe it was the Egypt exhibit (complete with a real Mummy) at the nearby Prince of Wales Museum that did the trick, but all the kids (and many of the parents) were utterly fascinated by Egyptian mythology and participated with gusto.

The next event had author Anidruddha Sen Gupta flying in all the way from Goa to talk about his Fundoo 4 series. He was all set with his bag of clues for the kids to solve. He seemed a little alarmed by the fact that the kids were much younger than he had expected but he was raring to go.

Until the electricity went off. In the entire neighbourhood, no less.

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The kids, of course, were convinced we did it on purpose. What better way to celebrate a mystery evening than conducting a detective session in the dark? Maybe we’ll steal that idea for next time but that Wednesday, we only managed to talk about the book for half an hour before realising the lights were off indefinitely and giving up on the whole exercise. We retreated into the dark cafe and called for cupcakes to soothe our disappointed spirits. The main organiser’s kids followed us in and the author took them through a personal clue-solving session that was a resounding success.

It's the camera flash that makes it look as bright as day. In real life, detectives need cellphone torches in the dark
It’s the camera flash that makes it look as bright as day. In real life, detectives need cellphone torches in the dark

The first session on Thursday had proved to be immensely popular with registrations. Natasha Sharma had clearly garnered a lot of fans with her previous book Icky, Yucky, Mucky!, all of whom faithfully showed up for her latest titled Kaka and Munni. Having dealt with crowds of all shapes and sizes, she came fully prepared, armed with extra activity kits and helpers in tow.

KG 073So even though hers was our most populated in-store event, it went off without a hitch. The next event of the evening had graphic novelist Tejas Modak who had translated the adventures of a beloved boy detective from Marathi to English. Nervous about dealing with kids younger than he was used to, the author managed to wow the audience with his book Fearless Fafe and the brilliant video he showed (which had the kids clamouring for an encore).

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He finished off the session by showing the kids how to draw the titular character and left them happily colouring Fearless Fafe blue with pink ears.

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Looking at all our delighted faces, nobody would have been able to guess that a popular author who was to conduct a workshop the next day had cancelled on us at the last minute.

All we could do was look at each other and mutter if it was time for us to Disapparate yet.