Books and Theatre – The key to your child’s imagination

Getting your child to read in today’s technology driven era is only possible if you dedicate enough time and have lots of patience.

If both time and patience is not your forte then you could get in touch with a reading club or a book camp for your kids during weekends or vacations to help them get into the habit of reading.

During my post graduation at the SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai, our visiting faculty in Creative Writing, Anwesha Bhattacharya (the granddaughter of the legendary director late Bimal Roy) had told us that the greatest gift that you can give to a child is a book. She told us that she would never gift clothes to her nieces and nephews who lived abroad; she only presented them with books, which helped them get into the habit of reading.

Until this day, I still make it a point to gift books to my nephews and nieces, as nothing in this world is more priceless to a child than books. Books are your child’s companion while growing up.

The Lifestyle Portal caught up with one such lady who dedicates her time and energy for instilling the love of books, theatre and creative thought in young minds. We had an opportunity to witness one of the cutest and most adorable children’s plays on the importance of saving water at Sunaparanta in Altinho, Panaji that was conducted and led by the lady herself.

She’s so full of positive energy and fervour that her face glows and would give many of us a complex. Our guess is, when you love doing what you do, it defies age and time and keeps you vibrantly youthful and cheerful always.

Meet 59-year-old Arundhati Chattopadhyaya, a graduate of St. Xavier’s College, who began her dance career in Mumbai.

After mastering the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam from Guru Raghavan Nair, Arundhati joined a Marathi Theatre group ‘Aniket’ and acted in several experimental plays. A winner of the Maharashtra State Award for Acting in 1974 Arundhati relocated to New York City where she taught and performed dance and acted in off-Broadway theatre productions.

From 1987onwards she started working in documentary and feature filmmaking and now lives in Goa where she regularly conducts theatre workshops for children.

How did it all begin?

“Probably in NYC where I worked with different age-groups kids in schools and colleges. Besides Bharatanatyam, I taught sound, movement and body expression for drama. When I moved to Goa I found the opportunity to develop physical theatre for children incorporating social awareness issues and using public spaces as platforms to perform on. Through this style of theatre, kids acquire civic sense and reach out to a large audience,” recalls Arundhati.

Why books?

She strongly believes that books are important to educate and enlighten children. Books help open up their minds and can take them to fantastical imaginary worlds.

“I use dramatic interactive reading by which a child can use her imagination and travel to another level of understanding. I invite experts from various fields connected to drama, such as sound technicians, directors, scriptwriters, and stage- and graphic-design artists to introduce their work to the children,” adds Arundhati.

Challenges faced

Arundhati shares some of the challenges in her line of work, “Not everything I plan works out. If Plan A fails I must have a Plan B or C to fall back on so as to keep the momentum going. Children can be temperamental: They may not all want to participate at the same time, and getting them to work as a team is a challenge. To make my classes work, I may have to juggle between the “Plans” I had set out; this means sometimes going home after a class and reworking the strategy to interest all the kids.”

About the workshops

Depending on age group (between 7 to 14 year-olds), the duration of each workshop is between 2 to 3 hours per class once a week. Workshops can run from a week to 3 months, hence fees vary greatly.

The themes differ, they can be based on wildlife, nature, civic awareness, gender issues, and the kids’ own life experiences.

If you’re located in Goa or simply visiting, you can drop by for her classes that are held in Bardez Taluka, North Goa, while Arundhati also hosts similar workshops across schools, art institutes, museums and library as well. So if you’re keen that your kids get a flavour of such workshops, you can ask your child’s school authorities to arrange for one!

Working with children 

One of the main reasons why Arundhati enjoys working with kids because of their high energy levels.

She adds, “They charge your thinking and together you can create incredible stories full of fantasy and drama. When we work on a given topic, we dissect and improvise and take it to a level where the kids had never thought it was possible to reach. It makes them bolder, alert, confident and able to work as a team. Through open discussions and encouragement, I find these workshops a perfect platform for a child to experiment and stand on his own.”

Presently Arundhati works with Literati and Sunaparanta, and also conducts voluntary workshops at Hamara School, a home for underprivileged children.

How books help

Pratham Books was looking for volunteers to read their publications on special occasions. They planned for the same book to be read throughout India on a given day; each volunteer was asked to form an event around the reading. Reports were compared and shared, so those involved got fresh ideas from this association.

Example: I read “A King Cobra’s Summer” to a young group on Environment Day after which Aparajita Choudhury, a veterinarian friend, gave us a lecture-demo on snake bite, first aid info, and addresses and phone numbers of contacts in case of snake bite in Goa. This was followed up by an exciting and well-received quiz on snakes.

Future plans

“My workshops are ongoing. I am at present doing a 3-month weekly course at Sunaparanta in Altinho, Panaji. The group of 22 children and I will be performing skits in public space at the end of the course. In closing, I would like to mention that, being very ambitious, I plan to continue a theatre culture for kids in Goa. I have given various organisations proposals and those interested will help me form a repertory for kids,” smiles Arundhati.

Contact:

In case you’d like to get in touch with Arundhati to conduct similar workshops at your school, hostel or community centre, then write to her on this email address: elandmail@gmail.com

Collaborate with us:
Write to us at tanya@tanyamunshi.com if you’d like to get featured or collaborate with us at The Lifestyle Portal.

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