Hindustan Times: The Elephant Bird



Storytellers lap up Udaipur-born author’s book

Rakesh Goswami, Hindustan Times, Jaipur


More than 3,000 storytellers are registered to conduct around 3,200 storytelling sessions as part of the ‘One Day, One Story’ campaign. (HT Photo)


For author Arefa Tehsin, who grew up in the jungles of southern Rajasthan, it sure is an honour that stories from her book The Elephant Bird are being read out in more than 3,000 storytelling sessions across the country through this week.

On Thursday, the session will be held at in the Pranab Mukherjee Public Library in President’s Estate at 4.45pm, said Manisha Chaudhry, head of content development, Pratham Books. Professional storyteller Rituparna Ghosh will conduct the storytelling-cum-reading session at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Pratham Books, established in 2004 with the mission to see a book in every child’s hand, runs a campaign every year on International Literacy Day (September 10) called ‘One Day, One Story’, giving storytellers an opportunity to connect with children in their neighbourhood and share the beauty of storytelling in their native language. This year, Tehsin’s book was selected for the campaign.

“The book is about a magical bird and a brave and curious child. It is based in a village called Adhaniya, inspired by a village of the same name in southern Rajasthan. I heard about it from my naturalist father Dr Raza H Tehsin,” said Tehsin on telephone from Sri Lanka where she’s working on a six-part rainforest-based novel series.

The book, which has been translated in 25 languages, is being read out at venues ranging from village talukas to city apartments, from convent schools to anganwadi centres, from amphitheatres to libraries, said Maya Hemant Krishna, community and outreach manager, Pratham Books.

More than 3,000 storytellers are registered to conduct around 3,200 storytelling sessions as part of the campaign. In Rajasthan, sessions have been held in Jaipur, Nal, Jaisalmer, Bichhiwada (Dungarpur), Ajmer, Bhilwara and in many villages. Diverse participants such as NGOs Praveen Lata Sansthan and Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan, Dharma Life (a social enterprise that is taking the story to several villages in Rajasthan) and the regional units (Bhilwara and Jaipur) of collectives such as Ladies Circle. Gandhi Fellows in Bichhiwada conducted sessions in 45 government schools, and Gram Chetna Kendra conducted sessions in 10 schools through their reading improvement programme, Krishna added.

“Our aim is to have a cohort of voluntters whose interest can be sparked through these sessions, enabling them to become long-term champions of reading,” she said.

Pratham works with underprivileged children. Pratham Books reaches around 50 million children and the ‘One Story, One Day’ campaign is in Limca Book of Records for hosting the largest number of volunteer-driven reading sessions on a single day.

“This annual celebration of reading has transformed into a reading movement that connects volunteers to the children who have less or no access to books or storytelling,” Krishna said.

Tehsin is author of fiction and non-fiction books such as Iora & the Quest of Five, Do Tigers Drink Blood & 13 Other Mysteries of Nature, The Land of the Setting Sun & Other Nature Tales, Tales from the Wild, Steed of the Jungle God and The Elephant Bird. Her latest book is Wild in the Backyard published by Penguin.



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