Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Sounds of Stories

I’d never done a reading or workshop for visually challenged children before. I thought that I can’t really do it like the others where I use visuals and images to enrich the tale. So I asked a friend who does theatre for children, Arka Mukhopadhyay, to accompany me and give sound effects to make the story more absorbing.  Although the sounds were mostly improvised, the effect was good. The girls laughed a lot. I thought if we had a bit of music, like someone playing a keyboard in the background, it would have been even better! I think for a future blind school reading anywhere in India we could prepare a little in advance with some appropriate music in between the paragraphs. That would be lovely!

The girls were divided into two groups-  one of Classes 6 to 7 and one of 8 and 9.  I read from two of my books, in Hindi only: Putul and the Dolphins, and Gulla and the Hangul. The girls were from all parts of India but they understood Hindi well. But to be honest, I was reading the books in Hindi carefully for the first time! The girls appeared to like the stories, for when asked, they said they wanted to continue. I also asked them which story they wanted to hear first- the one about Kashmir, or the one about Bengal, it seemed Kashmir was a general favourite! For them, like for all children, the distant and less-known was more alluring! Kashmir is in the news for all the wrong reasons when there is so much more to it than we hear about. So Gulla and the Hangul makes a difference!
The girls were mostly cheerful and enjoyed the reading. After each story Arka would do a small workshop with the children, and they would all try to create sound effects for the stories as they had heard Arka do during the reading. This was fun. The children laughed a lot. They found the sound effects funny. Like the hum of the river, or the barking of dogs, although they were a bit shy making the sounds themselves!

Swati of Eureka and Pallavi of Radio Mirchi were very kind, and so were the teachers and Principal of the Andh Kanya Vidyalaya. I’m grateful to Tulika, for the opportunity to read to visually challenged children. It was a challenge for me too.

Mariam Karim-Ahlawat, Author