Written by Meenal Bale
This is a story. A story of nostalgia, of a beginning, a recollection of the ‘ifs’ and the ‘buts’ and the ‘had beens’ that probably became a vital component of the ‘IS’ today. A story of how the ‘Chimbel Warriors’ came into being.
Books are indeed our best friend, and at Bookworm, that is one thing we have always had in plenty. To begin change on a small scale, the pilot of MOP aka the Mobile Outreach Programme was initiated in the land that resonated the chimes of the bells. Myself, Harish and Tanvi, the two other warriors who were facilitating this splendid initiative, would brace ourselves every Saturday for a new adventurous venture.
Armed with books rich in illustrations to aid the visual association while enhancing the hearing and listening skills, we would set off in our mobile red van, each time playing Santa Claus with a different story and activity, week after week out in the open, in the backyard of the chapel.
Each time there was a new challenge to face. Apart from the fact that children’s reading habit really needs to be nurtured, managing a floating crowd and a heap of curious spectators that would gather around at a distance to be a part of our stories in their own ways, while at the same time making sure that the sessions were interesting, interactive and informative; yes we would have a gala tough time!
The kids were not only fascinated by the colours in the books, but they were also enamoured by the stories. How could we gauge that? By the amount of questions that awaited us at the end of the session! And of course the part where everybody literally waited for their turn to take away a Library book and happily devour the story of their respective characters.
Next class when they would return, we were privileged to hear them enact and emote the stories of how the King made a wrong decision, how the dog was naughty but faithful, how the little boy found a magical pot and much more!
If everything functioned so smoothly, why then were we called the warriors? Because (quoting Spiderman here) ‘With greater power comes greater responsibility.’ We were faced with multiple obstacles – right from going door-to-door to gather the crowd at times, to dealing with the complaints of the local authorities about the innocent mischief that our kids were up to in the wait for the Mobile van! From everybody wanting to only do colouring and no reading at times, to everybody wanting to play innovative games each time.
But at the end of it all, we unfailing had a smile plastered to our faces and that was what gained us the name of the Chimbel Warriors! With the support of Sujata Ma’am, Niju, Arati, and many other mentors, we made this work!
Today, after two long years of being away when I step back into the same land, I see that things have improved for the good. There is a meticulous structure, lessened distractions and a controlled environment that supplements a smooth operation. It makes me extremely happy to see that the kids have better facilities, a better learning atmosphere with the introduction of Graded Readers and of course, our very own Library Room!
I can witness the impact that has been made over the years and I silently bask in the joy and cognition of being associated with this wonderful programme right through its maiden phase! Yes! I am undoubtedly glad that I am back! Thank you for this Bookworm. My Saturday Smiles are definitely back!