Never have I received so many flowers. Never have I received so many handmade gifts in appreciation of my writing. I received artworks, handmade books, a collection of the pupils’ stories, handwritten notes of welcome. One girl even gave me a book from her own collection. What an honour it was to be in the midst of such people, so generous in their appreciation!
I was scheduled to run two one-hour sessions at Usha Martin School Dankuni, beginning at 11.00, but arrived early and was immediately swept up in the pulsating atmosphere. It was straight to work! I had promised to read stories from Tulika’s great range of picture books to the younger students, and they loved this. I enjoyed using The Magic Feather– such a great introduction to the magical world of books. I narrated Black Panther too, making the kids to use their ownbinoculars to see all the animals it features. It was so very cute to see little handsaround eyes, peering forth... "I see elephants!"
The older students were just as wonderful. Teachers and kids alike had prepared for my visit like no other school in India. Kids were brought to Dankuni from two other Usha Martin campuses, to say that the large groups were attentive would be an understatement. Many had read my book ‘Advaita the Writer’, and classes had been hard at work writing about it – reflecting on its themes, and producing drawings. There were even models of the train Advaita takes from Delhi to Dehradun, and a model of Advaita in herbedroom with her sister nearby, and of course Advaita’s special bookshelf.
I talked and interacted non-stop from 9.30 until 3.30, and by the end my voice was feeling the pinch. There were questions galore! Many were deep and perceptive, and it was obvious to me that many of the kids come from families that attach real value to literature. What struck me most, however, was Usha Martin’s warmth. Hearts and minds were open and engaged – in fact, joyous. More than one child told me that it was the 'greatest day' of their life, a day they would ‘never, ever forget’. To receive the love of readers - what greater reward could there be for a writer?