Dodda Banasawadi Upper Primary school welcomed us with a large playground, freshly painted walls and a loud ‘good afternoon Miss chorus from the children. Bhavya, a translator at Pratham Books and a young enthusiastic story teller had agreed to conduct 3 sessions here as a part of BLF outreach. The story was the same for all the sessions: Darbhanga Keregalu (Lakes of Darbhanga) written by Anupam Mishra and illustrated by Prashant Soni. The story talks about a Pandit, who keeps up his promise made to the midwife who helped deliver his first child and how the Dai uses the wealth for the welfare of the whole village.
The idea was to present the story with varying degrees of simplicity depending on the grade and engage children in a water conservation dialogue.
We started with a bunch of 30+ 5th grade students. They enjoyed the story. They had a heated discussion over whether the Dai did the right thing by spending the wealth on the lakes. Many felt she should have provided better housing to folks. The conversation concluded with the idea that judicious use of water is most important.
6th graders about 30+ students wanted to know what the crucial problem was that led the king to seek a young boy’s advice. Bhavya used her imagination well in answering that as the author has not specified the reason in the book. Here the details got more vivid and the conservation methods used in India were discussed at length. The children mentioned that around the corner from their school the local administration was building a lake to hold water for future use. The librarian confirmed this little piece of information with us.
7th grade students could read the book themselves; they also read the BLF English banner haltingly. They enjoyed the story. Again housing seemed to be first choice to spend the wealth on. It perhaps reflected the conversations at home and the aspiration for a better environment. The story session concluded with a task of children locating Bihar on the India map and marking Mithilanchal district.
The Headmistress and the students invited Pratham Books to return soon with more stories, while we returned with the satisfaction of having done a job well.