Bookaroo Lit Fest: The Storyteller’s Diary

Can I relive a day again? Again and again and again?

All the speakers on Day 1

All the speakers on Day 1

I’ve tried to sleep all night thinking about the wonderful day I had at Bookaroo Lit Fest yesterday. Nursing my aching feet (for having hopped and walked from one venue to another), and getting used to a booming and scratchy throat (that usually follows a high-energy performance). But what really kept me alive are the hundreds of twinkling eyes looking back at me. The sparkling smiles, the anxious looks, the expectant frowns and the peals of laughter that flowed out effortlessly.

This is the stuff that makes my life today. The Little Things That Matter! 

Resurrecting the Pterodactyl

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Day 1 at Bookaroo Lit Fest started with my first session early in the day at the Psalms. It was special to start the day by meeting Tripurari Sharma under whom I did a theatre workshop way back in college. She didn’t remember me but I told her that her lessons have stayed with me all these years only to be dusted, brushed and used now! Back at the Psalms the crowds walked in a little late. Bookaroo has the repute of never starting a session late and we are all really eager to start. Within a few minutes the crowd trickled in. And we were set to go!

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There is a certain joy in reading a book that no one has ever read! So the Pterodactyl’s Egg by Annie Besant was just that for me. Ideally publishers prefer to get the author to launch a new book, and so in the absence of the author, the task falls on the shoulders of a storyteller. So I walked in knowing that I had to intrigue the audience and engage them enough for them to want to read the book. The age group 8-10 is not an easy one. They are not the younglings, but then they are not young-adults, telling them with conviction was not as easy.

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The session rolled on and more trickled in. Some curious faces that looked (and I hoped) as if they were drawn in by all the noise I was making. The kids were eager to take the story ahead. They threw in their own plots. The adults were chuckling and that was a wonderful thing to see. So I did what I love best…got all of them to stand up, ride an imaginary Pterodactyl and imagine it is flying way above the city. We squealed in delight, roaring with excitement, letting our imaginations run wild…or at least I hope everyone did. 😀

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The publishers had a precious set of book pre-published and they wanted me to find a way to give them away to a select few. Democratically of course! And so I did the next best thing that I love best…I got the kids to enact the Pterodactyl. With imaginary wings, a curious and screeching cawing of sorts, kids suppressed their smiles to become the flying reptile!

Oh what a joy to tell a story and enact it too!

Having had my first shot of adrenaline rush, I settled down for the next few hours calming my nerves and breathing deep. Between stories, I need that! Thankfully there were 3 odd hours to do that. So caught up on a few sessions in between, exchanged smiles and compliments and filled my tummy with food and a sinful brownie at the author’s lounge!

By the time it was time for my next session, I had got a mild headache and chose to treat it with another brownie! Sugar rush…yes! :p

The Peacock Under The Kahani Tree

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I’ve never told stories under a tree. And I have always wanted to! So there I was with another astounding crowd of parents and kids, some of whom I have known from earlier sessions elsewhere, onlookers, authors and fellow storytellers who stopped by to listen to me. And there in the crowd were two pairs of eyes that were looking back at me with pride. Having V and A sit in the audience this time, it was my brightest moment for the day…the two boys in  my life, my muse and my rock, cheering me on silently. 🙂

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This time I had 30 minutes and with the presentation being a bit long, I was in a hurry to finish it on time. Luckily for me when Ameen Haque said that I have a very relaxed way of telling, I realised that no one else sensed the rush!

The Peacock’s story is all about birds vying for the leader’s place. So there was a lot of cawing, hooting, kukdu-kooing, gutter-gooing and all that! I had earlier presented this story twice at Bookaroo In The City and I knew that this was a firm favourite with the crowd, so I knew I could do it again. I did.  So as we all made the bird sounds and I showed my little bird props, the story touched everyone somewhere. The look in those eyes, the claps and the warmth from the crowd will stay with me for a long time.

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Could I tell a third story in the day? Oh yes I could! With such an infectious crowd, story and book lovers who wouldn’t? What really mattered was that I found a common platform with some of the world’s finest storytellers, authors and illustrators. I found a platform to tell and share my love for stories. I have made new friends and acquaintances have popped out of social media to make real-world friends.

It was inarguably the most humbling and super awesome day from my entire storytelling career. GOLPO is just a start to my journey as a storyteller and I hope to add more such awesome stories to my bag.

Am I looking forward to Day 2? (Why is it only two days, anyway?) Yes I am! Today I go as a listener, a student taking notes on storytelling, an eager audience, an indulgent parent and a little fan girl looking forward to get a few copies signed by authors. 😀

More on that in another post.

See you at Bookaroo!

 
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Memories That Money Can’t Buy

Maa tells me that when she was a kid petrol was 40 p / litre. Baba earned 800 bucks a month. Their first dish of lobsters in Taj Mahal, Mumbai costed Rs 350. It was an extravagance, but they weren’t paying for it. My parents’ childhood sounds idyllic to me. Gosh, really, how inexpensive was life then!

My own childhood was not extravagant either. Once a week, Maa would be give me 5 bucks so that I could buy dosa for lunch at school. Or pepsicola like we called in those days…iced colas squeezed in plastic pipes.

pepsi cola

Or a round of kala chana salad that I called ‘Vitamin’. The thrill of handling money was of great joy. At once empowering and full of responsibility. With a small amount given to me on certain days, I felt I had to account for every penny spent, or saved.

As I grew up, my ‘pocket money’ also increased. 50 bucks a month was such an extravagance. Sometime later, while still in school I started tutoring a little girl. Her mother out of gratitude paid me Rs 250 as fees. To a girl of 17, it brought the first thrill of earning her money. Then there was a dance competition that fetched us Rs 4000 as top prize. Between 10 of us, we shared not more than 400 each. I remember I bought myself my first high heels back then. Black in colour, I soldiered on in them for a long, long time. They gave the height my own legs didn’t. A confidence of having earned something. To be worthy of a prize. To be able to spend it. To make a choice of putting my money in the right place.

Money didn’t matter then. What did, is how I earned it. Or spent it.

Years later, I take my son out to the weekly haat. There are fresh vegetables you see. As a mother, I strive to put the freshest and healthiest grub on the table. Oh yes, it is a task to walk from one stall to another. To find the juiciest tomato, or the perfect lemons, or a flower of gobhi without hidden pests inside…to carry the heavy bags back to the car, sometimes five of them heavy with kilos of food for the family. Of course they are cheaper, but what is a good wife who is not penny wise?

Haat Memory

Our trips to the haat are not about vegetables any more. They are also not about finding the cheapest onions that don’t sting my purses. It is about my son learning his ways in a market. Every Sunday, mother and son, we go to the haat to pick our veggies for the week. To haggle a little. To sort a little. To pick the best. To eat the best.

Hand in hand we walk from one stall to another. We sort the veges we want, we ask for the best rates. He likes the feel of soft, squishy tomatoes in his little palms. No, we don’t want them, I tell him. Look for the firm ones. They have to be tight…yes, look for the red ones. He picks one and wants to dig his teeth into it. Oh, you can’t do that yet! Wait till we get home and you can wash it first. 

The firm form of green capsicum also tease him. He picks up one, just enough to fill his hand, like a little ball. He looks around, aiming for the weighing scale, wanting to throw it right in. He looks at me for encouragement and then at the shopkeeper. Both of us yell, No baby, don’t throw it…put it down! Disappointed and defeated, he puts it right back.

We pick our lemons. He notices that I don’t pick the ones with spots. A spotted lemon makes it way into the basket, and he quickly pops it out. While the shopkeeper weighs our pick, the little man quickly picks one and hides it behind himself. What do you think you are doing here? I ask. He flashes his dimples and puts the lemon back.

Me, me me…he screams when the pumpkin man returns 5 bucks to me. He wants it, you see. Three pieces of coins all for himself. I let him have them. He fingers them carefully and puts them in his pocket. Clutching it tight. Back home, as his Baba helps me carry the bags home, he pulls out his tiny hands from his pocket and says, taka..Baba, taka.

Oh yes, my boy…taka (money) is what you will handle when you grow up. But will you remember the innocence with which you went to the haat? It’s all worth a penny’s sake…but to me, it is worth it to gather a moment that will become a memory for me. And for you… 

Memories are special…because they can never be bought. Long after you have grown up, you may remember our trips to the haat. And every time you do, they will make you smile…

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013.Today’s prompt is ‘Memories’. 

Write Tribe

Dear Sons, Girls are NOT meant to be Raped

I rarely re-blog my own posts across my blogs. For the sake of my larger readership on this blog, I choose to re-post what was originally written for Parentous and shared on On-Board the Mommyship, my parenting blog. 

Please read, introspect, respond and share. 

Another day, another city, another girl and another rape. Why does it not shock me? Or maybe it does, but I am beyond any sensation. It worries me that my child is growing up in a world that doesn’t learn from its mistakes.

It worries me to see that the world where my son is growing up is increasingly antagonistic towards women. It worries me to see the commodification of women. It worries that I may have to tell him that a man must protect a woman. I must tell him that the world is an unsafe and hostile place for women. I worry that I will have to make him a custodian for a woman’s honour and safety.

It worries me that I have a son. It worries me that I have the gigantic responsibility of answering the questions he may have about violence against women. As he grows up to songs like ‘Fevicol Se’, hear politicians say that his colleague is a ‘tunch maal’, or a society that judges a woman for what she wears and who she goes out with; I worry, that I have a lot of answering to do for him.

I worry that I will have to watch him closely, give him the right lessons, monitor his actions all his life. I worry that my son’s view of women is a reflection of how I have brought him up. The way my son behaves now and when he grows up will be a judgement of me.

You can read the rest of the post on Parentous

My first lesson to you, my Son

Dear V,

I am writing this to you during very disturbing times. By the time you read and truly understand the importance of what I am writing today, you will be a strapping young boy too old perhaps to spare time for some crucial lessons. Today, a week away from your 10th month birthday I begin your life’s instructions by giving you your first lesson. The first lesson of your entire lifetime, and one that will perhaps be the most significant in your future.

God made you a male. A gender that we in India traditionally believe and until now preach is the superior one. I tell you today, men and women are equal. God created them equal and never in your life must you disrespect a woman. By the time you read this you would perhaps have seen young girls and women who are different from your mother. Your mother as she writes has given up her career because she felt discriminated against. Discriminated because she had a baby…you.  Today, far from pitying her state of affairs you know she is successful. Though I must admit that at the time of writing this she has no idea which path her career will take, but then, what  the hell. You will know the story from here to your future, right?

Women are different from men. As an adolescent no one would know it more than you. But what you must know is that a woman though she may seem weak and fragile she is as a strong as a man in every other way. She will be beaten down, she may lose a battle, carry her scar, but she will rise again and fight the odds. What I tell you today is not that, you have seen that in every woman in your life…but what I teach you today is that you must never be the one to hurt a woman. Don’t disrespect a woman, never outrage her modesty, don’t assume that as a man you have the moral right to insult her dignity and right in society.

I grew up different from my mother. Our struggles have been different. She had to fight her family to complete her studies. I fought the world to make a career. Your girlfriend or your sister, if there ever is one will again be different. She will have struggles of her own, but what I wish is that she should never have struggles. I imagine a world where a woman is not trudged upon. I imagine a world where women are free to make choices of their own and a world where her choices are respected. I imagine a world where no man assumes that he has the right to punish her. I imagine a world where a woman is never hurt, humiliated, insulted, molested or raped. I imagine a world where ‘Women’s Rights’ is not a fancy term on placards. I imagine a world where ALL men truly respect and honour women as equal citizens. I am sad to tell you that today young girls are raped and murdered, teenagers are molested by a mob of thirty men, that a policeman rapes a young girl who goes complaining for eve-teasing, that a woman is punished for wearing short clothes by being abducting and being raped inside a car. I am sad that I can do precious little that write such disillusioned posts to you, my ten month old. But really, today when I see such atrocities on women, I don’t say “Thank God! I don’t have a girl,” I say, “Oh! God I have a son…what kind of a boy and a man will he grow up to be?”

I have only you to teach, dear V. I can only hope you grow up to be a better man than what we see in society today. You are the future, my son…remember you will be responsible for the world you live in. I will be gone someday, but remember this lesson all your life. 

With lots of love and a fearful heart,

Maa-mum-mum

The Middle Class Mother

Does ‘The Great Indian Midddle Class’ still exist? And if it does then how are they divided further into the lower / upper middle class? Oh! How we grew up with the middle class jargon!

As a child I remember having almost everything that a regular child needs in her growing up years. It however helped that way back in our times we didn’t have branded clothes. There was no Lilliput for little adults, United Colors of Benetton for juniors and no Gini & Jony for the little fashionistas! I still remember wearing a handed down Levi’s when I was barely 5. It was of course a phoren ka maal because Levi’s for adults wasn’t available in India of the 1980’s. And that precious piece of denim was further handed down to my cousins and brother. The youngest was born in post-liberalisation India, but even then branded clothes for kids was unthinkable! The one brand that kids had for them was Johnson & Johnson and I remember parents swearing by them.

It came as a shock to me that Johnson & Johnson had a bedtime collection! A night lotion, a cream and powder. A bedtime bath for kids is still an alien concept in India…“Bacchae ko thand lag jayegi!” the admonishing mother / In-law will never allow their grand kids to take a shower at night! So i felt that it was quite an intriguing product to launch in India. The shopkeeper however had a point – “madam! Aajkal bado ke lite night cream hota hai, bachche kyon pichche rahen?” I succumbed to temptation and bought a bedtime lotion for V. I soon realised that V was far from being lulled to sleep. He refused to go to bed every time I lathered him with that lotion.

My son doesn’t care for a Lilliput or a UCB or Gini & Jony. He doesn’t know or care for clothes and shoes bought from abroad. He doesn’t care that I tore up my granny’s old sarees for his nappies when he was born. That for his first winter I bought pants for 15 bucks each from the footpath! He won’t remember or bother that he wore handed down clothes from his elder cousin brother as an infant. He won’t remember that his mom bought ‘unbranded’ but extremely comfortable and smart clothes from the small town that she grew up in! That he was made to suffer the intolerable summer sun to buy a sandal worth Rs 165, or his first summer cap for Rs 90. He doesn’t care now…can’t say how he’d feel as an adolescent though!

As a parent I have to make choices that my parents never had to make. I still remember that one particular dress that my mother bought me from the new AC market in Kolkata and that which I refused to wear after once! I remember being very excited about it when it was bought, but I could never get myself to like it when it languished in my cupboard. I don’t think my mother has forgiven me for that one extravagant purchase. And till date a part of me feels bad for having wasted that money. My parents didn’t shave too many ‘brands’ to choose from, they bought me clothes for my birthday and Durga Pujas, and that lasted for almost the entire year. I buy clothes for V at the drop of a hat…he has more clothes than his father now! It’s not that I cannot afford a smart buy, a branded piece or imported shoes for V…I can afford to, but I realise that just because I can I need not indulge in kiddie extravagance. I am doing my best for my son and some day he will have to grow up to learn to be happy with his childhood. I am holding on to the strings of my purse tight and tighter as my son grows older. I need to learn and remind myself to be a frugal mom…a middle class mom.

P.S: I still have my first M&S that my father bought me 15 years back during his first trip to London. A pair of Jodhpurs and a red pull over. I like to say that I’ve maintained myself in these 15 years but the truth is that those are the only pieces from M&S that I own and they are too precious for me to part with. I wonder if V would ever feel that way for any clothes that his father or I will buy in his life…

Gabbar – Thakur and The Legend of Sholay

Wasn’t it Gabbar who said “…yahan se pachaas meel door jab gaon mein koi bachcha rota hai to uski maa bolti hai, ‘so jaa varna Gabbar aa jayega?”
When Salim-Javed wrote this, they didn’t know that kids will cry even 37 years later…
What started as a little game is now our favourite sport with V. Just as we dare say another very famous line from the same film V pouts with anguish. And our buttercup has our hearts melting.
V is a child of very few tears, so its a real surprise that he cries every time anyone says this dialogue! I’ve translated the dialogue to English, sung it like a rhyme and a talked like a baby, but every single time he has pouted!
Once when the film played for the nth time on Zee Cinema, increased the TV volume to an insane level, just when the scene arrived.V was perplexed! Why has his dad suddenly turned deaf?
I am secretly convinced that he was Thakur in his past life! Poor man, he lost his hands in his past life and here we are after his hands again…I have decided to call nickname him Thakur for now 🙂
This is a serious infringement of the copyright act…Mr Sippy would be a very angry man. Let’s hope the writers are a little amused and little V when he grows up has his sense of humour in place to pardon me for putting this up!
This video was taken when V was 6 months old…turns 9 months today!!
Love you Thakur…Ooops! Son…
VID_00015-20120324-0909.3GP Watch on Posterous

A Lion Heart

A Lion Heart was originally written for Baby Talk! on 22nd May’12

Yesterday I took V for his vaccination where we were the 3rd patient. The first was a 2.5 month old baby who looked barely a month old. Her mother explained he was born a month premature by c-section. As the doc prepared to prick him he called for the father. The mother walked away and came and stood before us. The poor boy wailed and wailed. And what a frail voice it was!! The mother winced, closed her eyes and shook her head. While my mother patted her hand, I told her “It’s a prick that he needs. It’s a pain that’ll go away, but now it’s good for him!” What I didn’t tell her is that she has to be strong, for there will be many more situations when she’ll need a strong heart, a lion’s heart…

…that’s what a mother needs. She needs to have a lion’s heart to be strong, to face the fiercest trauma and come out of it. To be able to see one’s child in trouble and pain. To be strong enough to bring her or him out of it. To be a pillar of strength and stand up for her and him. To shield one’s child from all known sources of threat. To protect, defend and heal. A mother needs to do all this and more…

As I see my 25 year old brother battle his pains, I also see my mother who has weathered a severe burns accident launch a fresh war again. 16 years back, in a fire accident at home my mother was left with 25% burns and two broken ankles that were never treated. She walks with a limp and yes, every step even till date is extremely painful. We have seen her throw her crutches and walk by herself. We have seen battle her pains and emerge a winner. For me, she is the epitome of how much the human body can endure. But today when she sees her son battling pain, she breaks down. For the first one week after his accident she refused to feed my brother because she was scared she would hurt him. She would walk out of the room the moment the docs would enter. While he wanted to show off that he could now move from the bed to the stretcher for his bed to be made, my mother would scamper out of the room. Every child, every adult calls out for his / her mother in a moment of pain and despair. It’s taking Maa a lot of effort to overcome her emotions and stand by her son.

I can’t blame her! And neither can I sermonise her. She tells me its easier to say, “Be strong”. To ask another mother to be strong. Her pain is different from mine, I am not in her place…I don’t understand. But somewhere I do understand. And so I ask for strength. I ask God to give me the fortitude to bear the pains that V would face in life. As a mother I hope and pray that V suffers no pain and hardship in life. But then that’s really an artificial life, isn’t it? Whatever maybe stored for V in his life I hope he faces it with courage and fortitude. And with him I hope I have the resources too support him and his choices, a strength to stand by him always or bear the pains that my boy may have to face.

A lion’s heart…that’s what I want.