Written by Neelashi Mangal
(He sits on the mat they had just laid on the floor and kids sit around him in curiosity.)
Gulnaaz: Sir! Kaunsi story hai?
Terence: Russian story about a little girl.
Gulnaaz, a 10-year old girl is a senior in the community library program group. She wore a floral kurta with orange pants, hair braided and tied with black ribbons. She brought her four cousins to the Bookworm Library in Chimbel for a storytelling session. We had just finished reading a story about a little Russian girl’s adventures in a forest. The element of suspense in the story had kept all the children in the room quiet. As the story progressed, they all dropped to the mats in a relaxed position, faces in their palms and eyes straight on the picture book. What a sight!
I was an observer for the session and it is then that I asked myself – what is it that I am passionate about, that no matter what may come, I will do it? – thanks to these children who had me dive inside. They somehow did not get disturbed even when the electricity went off. A few of them were drawing and colouring a bear that was on the cover page of the storybook on the piece of paper given to them. They did not pause even for a minute! They continued. It was complete involvement. Terence and Krystle gave children time to browse through books that they had brought from the Bookworm Library. I am unable to capture in words that look in the eyes of the children when they were flipping the pages, touching the characters in the book or reading small sentences to themselves.
I had tears in my eyes when I was getting on the scooter to go back to Panjim thinking how, like all the wealth that remains unequally distributed, books are too. Identity, caste, class, gender plays a definite role in who gets to read and listen to stories. Books are a world in themselves and if we keep away children like Gulnaaz and Neelu from looking beyond their peripheries, are we not doing them an injustice? They have also have the right to view different worlds and to think.
The Mobile Outreach Program (MOP) is one of a kind! The nature of this session teaches a very simple aspect of life – Hope. Bookworm members expressed how this session is voluntary for children which means that whoever comes for this session would not necessarily come next time too. There could be a possibility of no one showing up at all but that has never stopped the Bookworm team from being present there regularly. What is hope if not this? Some are born with the privilege of having books around them but for someone like Gulnaaz, books have to be brought to them. They are not surrounded by books naturally, it has to be a deliberate effort to introduce books to Gulnaaz.
Neelashi Mangal is currently pursuing her second year of her M.A. Education at Azim Premji University, Bangalore. She conducted her research work with Bookworm Library. She loves reading fiction and philosophy and enjoys writing.