Thursday, October 15, 2009

A library interaction at my home!

Usha Mukunda

A medley of shapes and sizes tumbled out of the school van. It was a Thursday during Home Term Week and a group of seniors were coming home for a library session. You may well wonder what a library –at-home looks like. So did I! But read on and see what happens.

The first thing I wanted was to get a feel of their reading habits. So I asked them to do ‘mad ads’ about any book they had read recently. My challenge was to spot the book. So groups got formed and they disappeared into various rooms to prepare. In a little while, the first group began. Vishnu looked forlornly at me through the grills of my front windows. The rest looked like they were relaxed and killing time. I racked my brains but could only come up with “The Count of Monte Cristo.” A mischievous glint in Prahlad’s eye gave the game away. He had chosen to depict his own story. Not fair!!!! The others did some dumb charades for me and I was able to squeak past with correct guesses. So having established our pecking order, we were ready to interact!!!

We did a couple of exercises of book acrostics together. Ask them how it works. Together we came up with one that they could take back and display in the library at Shibumi.
Since they had travelled through the city, I read out a story of the way a city works. I had two selections. One was “The Cop and the Anthem” by O. Henry. The other which I decided on was“The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde. They were of differing ages and levels of reading so I wondered if this would go well. But it did... amazingly well. I was struck by the quietness and attention with which they listened.

The next part of the day was a walk in Malleswaram to see some old sights. Before that I drew them a rough map and grid of the Mains and Crosses that Malleswaram is known for. The idea was that they could navigate their way and I would be around to rescue them if needed. First we went to a 99 year-old house. The Centenary birthday was fast approaching according to the owners who were much younger. The unique feature of the house was the monkey-top roof. Rajat’s
mom can provide more data on this, I’m sure. The kids asked the lady of the house some questions and at the end of the visit, they got a bag of Puja snacks!

Next stop – Malleswaram Railway Station.
This is a quaint old station which is fast getting modernised.The rain trees there are truly special and are certainly more than a 100 years old. We were awaiting a train and much to Dev’s joy, a super fast train came swooshing past us. The poem “From a railway carriage,” by Robert Louis Stevenson was read out later and the kids seemed to jive to the rhythm of...”faster than fairies,....”

From there we walked to a Bengali Puja Pandal where the Durga image had just been installed. So we had a short conversation there about the story of Durga and her various manifestations in different parts of India.
On the way, we saw the roots of a tree which had been felled pretty devastatingly. So later we read a poem by Gieve Patel called, “On killing a tree” which starts off with the words, “It takes much time to kill a tree” and goes on to say how violent one has to be to do a thorough job of killing a tree. We talked a little bit about why the poet may have chosen this way of saying what he wished to. What was he trying to convey, anyway? Interesting discussion.

Homeward bound with the kids leading and actually finding their way back. Viju and I reached to find them all at home in every way. A leisurely lunch followed by another library activity called a book auction. After this we talked a bit about detective writing and about
Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the first super detective, Sherlock Holmes. We showed them a film of “The Norwood Builder”. Frequent pauses to ensure all were awake and following the story!

For me it was a wonderful day. I had not thought it would flow so smoothly. The kids promised that if I came to Shibumi they would be ready for an on-site library interaction! So on to Shibumi for a home visit for me!