Written by Zarine
I sat looking at the little kids trotting around the library during their preschool morning. I went to the kitchen to drink a glass of water, but when I returned there were three boys of around ten along with them. They certainly were not Pre School Morning kids, they appeared to belong to a different socio-economic class than the PSM children. I asked my colleague Deepali who these boys were? She told me that any kid can come into the library to read and play. ‘What a lovely and commendable job Bookworm is doing! Where was Bookworm during my journalism days? I had written about so many good things people were doing, the philanthropic builder, the modern women farmers, the green activists soldiers….Bookworm doesn’t blow its own trumpet, I rationalized, but that doesn’t mean the people I wrote about went on beating their own drums, then why did I miss it?..
Today I’m three weeks old at the library, I still remember my first day. ‘”Go to your left of the Church,” said my friend, I went to the left only to find acres and acres of green fields, I called my friend again, “go back, go back to the Church and stretch your left hand, you’ll see Monginis on one side and another coffee shop at the other, just go a little further down and you will see the Bookworm signage”. At last I found the place, it was totally different as I imagined it to be; I thought it would be another Broadway where there will be stacks and stacks of newly bound books on sleek selves amidst the scents of rich perfumes of the money powered elite.
Bookworm was different, very different. It is located in a half house with its trademark logo (a worm reading a book) and a cloth banner saying ‘Jumble Sale’ swaying in the afternoon breeze. Inside, it was a treasure trove of not so new children’s books, toys, play area, projects done by children, photographs and artwork around; immediately I came to know that the library was more than just a lending and returning place but how was it different I still had to find out. “We have what we call Mobile Outreach Programme, we have 4 sites, today we will go to Chimbel,” said one of the young resource persons. Just then, another resource person came down with a bagful of puppets, crayons, paper cutouts and a boxful of books. Next moment, I found myself on my bike following the resource persons. They were off to Chimbel and we rode on and on. At last we took a last swerve and a little shanty town appeared. Next we were walking on a dusty path, passing goats, chickens and houses clustered against one another. There was a waft of drainage water but nobody really cared. I looked at my watch; it was 4pm, a week earlier, I would have been on a desk with my computer on, a neat outfit on and loads of pressure on. Today, it was a totally different picture. We entered a non decrepit little room full of books. There were children coming in, with books in their hands and promises that they will never make noise again. “Good,” said one of other resource persons and began the session with a song. Then the little and the older children were divided into two groups and both the resource persons took the lead for each one of them. They read out stories to them, played literacy games and ended with colouring animal paper cut outs. I assisted wherever I could, probably I was more of a hindrance than an assistant, nevertheless I did what I could. There was one thing in my mind though, I thought if I were to take a session, I could have engaged the children better. I was dreadfully mistaken. A few days later when I was asked to lead the juniors at St. Inez, I knew I had a long way to go to become like the other resource persons. I started the session with a game wherein the children had to bring that animal cutout which I called out. The children would not budge a single inch from where they were (they were very close to the cutouts) inspite of me requesting and pleading them to do so. Eventually I called out an animal’s name only to find the older boys jumping over the little ones to get a half torn elephant cutout. There was so much screaming, shouting, beating and crying that I had to wrap up the game earlier than I intended. I thought a good read would engross and engage them, but there again I was wrong! Almost all the children were occupied with their own businesses, a group of five were drawing ‘scary faces,’ a tiny girl and a tinier boy were competing against each other on who can make bigger spit bubbles and a boy of around three just got up and walked away as if nothing was happening. Only one girl seemed to listen to my story, however at the end when I asked her which animals were there in the story, she said “crocodile, monkey, elephant, zoo and giraffe.” I told her that a zoo wasn’t an animal but a place, something just then rang a bell and I said Bondla, then she understood. I always knew I was blessed with a presence of mind!
My report of the session was a mournful one but our Programme Lead, Sujata was most encouraging After leading two more sessions, I feel I’m improving slowly but surely. There are so many programmes conducted by Bookworm, there is Libraries in Schools, Theatre on the Beach, of course Pre School Mornings etc etc; being just three weeks old at the library, I have just experienced the tip of an iceberg.
I love Monday mornings because that is when the most educative, interactive and erudite meetings are held. I just adore the positive vibe and energy ma’am Sujata carries with her. She can make the most boring meeting come alive with her energy and zest. Sometimes we learn figures of speech, what is Haiku, how a journal should be written.
I confess in the beginning I was not too happy with the job mostly because of the distance I have to travel, and when an intern friend of mine commented to me “from a reporter to a paper cutter,” I just laughed. However, as days are passing, I’m beginning to love my work more and more. My colleagues are great, my work is great, the ambience is great and I’m feeling great, well that’s all what is needed to have a happy work life!