New beginnings at Urdu Writers Workshop at MANUU

Aadaab! Namaste! Pratham Books conducted a 3-day writers workshop at the Centre for Urdu Language, Literature & Culture, at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad.  With nearly 50 participants, mostly post-graduate and above, who registered voluntarily from departments as diverse as MCA, Islamic Studies. English and Urdu Literature and Education, we were overwhelmed by our reception. The Vice Chancellor, Dr Mohammed Aslam Parvaiz is a progressive and able visionary and administrator who is breathing new life into this excellently located and provisioned Central University. Theatre person and author Anis Azmi  who retired from Delhi Urdu Academy is assisting him in bringing cultural activities to expand the horizons of the University. Theatre, reading, music, poetry are bringing subtle and beautiful changes in the entire atmosphere and giving new dimensions to the students to explore. 
Our workshop was part of this ongoing effort to explore creativity, writing for children and to discuss the need for children’s literature in Indian languages. This is the largest group we have handled in a workshop.The large majority was from the Education Department and many of those students were to begin their field work of teaching in a school. This was also the workshop where we got to know some participants only from their eyes and voice! 
It was an amazing experience to work with students from Jharkhand, Bihar, UP, Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. 
Apart from the mellifluous strains of Urdu, we also heard many lovely lilting accents of the same language. We also heard Anis Sahab issue corrections to ensure that they used the right words to write. The students were game to try writing triggers PBees Mala Kumar and Manisha Chaudhry threw at them in Hindi and English also! Many of them illustrated their stories with no prompting from us. Poonam Girdhani, a talented dastango (storyteller) who waxes eloquence in Urdu, kept them nimble by pointing out the pitfalls of using stereotypes, if they wanted to be truly creative. PBee Rajesh Khar was the living example of a pan-Indian identity and he would underline that every now and then by throwing open his arms in true Titanic style!
With a combination of large and small group work, we certainly brought down some barriers between departments, genders and accent! A direst and impressively quick impact of the workshop has been that the students have formed a Readers and Writer’s Club that will meet every fortnight to read out their writing over tea and samosas. They have demanded and got a Wall space for a magazine.
The workshop marks an important beginning. We hope it will be the first of many such because we need to talk about children’s literature in Indian languages among the people who will be the educators and administrators of tomorrow.

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