Sometimes an email can make you just jump in glee and book your tickets to Kishangarh, in Rajasthan, that too in these hot summer days!!! Especially if the subject box says ‘Kahani Mela’ So when Jaya sent me this email I just couldn’t resist myself to join in this effort initiated by Organisation for Early Literacy Promotion (OELP), an organisation working with Government schools of Kishangarh block in Ajmer District, Rajasthan. The Ajmer Shatabdi brought me to the city.
OELP, which has been working with children in Kishan Garh block for a decade, is organizing Kahani Mela, a celebration of stories in three different villages. Kahani Mela is the culmination of a long process of connecting children and the community with the world of books. These village communities have volunteered to help organize this mela in which children from different villages will present their learnings through drama, puppet shows, songs, art, games and other creative forms, wherein over 5000 people will participate for over three days .
After the train ride, I head to the field with a stopover for an RnR (rest and recuperate) At Kakniyawas, Shabana, the first post graduate of the village, and her team show us the books that they have created over the last few days, to be displayed at the mela. There is a big one “Kakniyawas ka Itihas”. Simran, Taleem, Imran and others have organised a play Unt ke Ande. Simran as Guppu Chacha is narrating the story. Sonal, Shabana and others also have significant roles too. We are sitting in a dilapidated haveli, a structure that has seen better days and has withstood the test of time.
OELP members teach in 10 villages of Kishangarh Block engaging with about 6000 children and youth. Members teach grades 1st and 2nd wherein story books are the central means of teaching. This enables students at this very young age to read and write with clarity. Children as early as age 5 and 6 create their own story books and learn to narrate them too.
Libraries are crucial to the work that OELP does. In these 10 villages there are six libraries with the central library being situated in Patan. It is housed in a two roomed building that has been offered free of cost to OELP by the village Panchayat. The libraries are home to a total of about 20,000 books including about 1500 in English.
In 2008 OELP started with the intent on bringing books to people. Motorcycle borne members would sit on the village chaupal to talk to villagers and encourage them to read.
Books open a window to the world; they make readers take flight into the unknown. Stories also bind communities. Children and youth (age 12 to 16 years of age) are encouraged by OELP to discover stories of their community, their history and their present. With the village elders they investigate their past agricultural and irrigation practices, clothes that they used to wear and talk about the current practices and the reasons behind them.
Some interesting stories that have emerged through the years are narrated to me. The first television that came to a village years ago was won in a lottery. Four grazier brothers wrote a fabulous book with illustration on how they found their lost goat following goat droppings. The illustrations tell the tale with great details.
Children also produce wall newspapers which they put up in the central part of the village. These are investigative reports of villages – talking about social ills too. These newspapers also carry the stories that children have written.
So does this enthuse enough to be with us at Kishangarh…
On 25th May, 2017, from 3pm to 7pm, Kahani Mela will be in Kalyanipura, North of Rupalgarh in the Kishangarh Block of Ajmer District .
On the 27th May, 2017, from 3pm to 7pm, Kahani Mela will be in Patan Village in the Kishangarh Block of Ajmer District (located on the Jaipur – Ajmer highway at a distance of 15 kms from Kishangarh).