“Pictures speak a thousand words” might be true, but during our visit to Sapera Basti there were many words spoken and elaborate scenarios conceived as little eyes, wide with amazement, and ears full of promise, entered into the world of magic, ghosts, talking animals, and wonderment in the form of stories.
Let’s go back in time.
A tweet, one single tweet by Pratham Books was all it took.
An initiative stared by the publishing house, to supply volunteers with books who in turn hold story readings across the world, aiming especially towards the unprivileged, is a noble cause no doubt.
It’s a small revolution that is boiling on the surface, one that might not make a huge impact right away, but will slowly and surely be applauded for its ingenuity to bring forth the love for books and spread this love to those impressionable minds in the hope that it might spark a little imagination and amazement into their lives.
Books received and the event planned, the search for an enthusiastic story teller began. As luck would have it, hidden in the depths of my daughter’s school (I guess I have a flair for the dramatics too) was a fellow parent, who was not only an expert story-teller, but passionate about the art as well.
On a quiet weekend we headed towards Sapera Basti, Mandi Gaon, Gurgaon which is a slum situated near the Delhi-Gurgaon border. Comprising of families from all across India, the basti got its name from the snake charmers who originally inhabited it, but with animal cruelty laws, the residents now comprise of individuals who do odd jobs around the city.
It is here that Shibu and Elizabeth run a school for children and conduct various activities, like movie viewing and now story-telling, are organized by volunteers from time to time. You can read more about their initiative at bharatsevasamity.org.
The gathering with a picture perfect setting was something that simply had to be experienced. The collective “gasps” by children, their smiles, their yawns, their laughter, would lose its beauty on the page.
As one story lead to another, the interaction and interest levels illustrated by the children varied, yet they continued to be amazed, be it by myriad tales which kept on coming one after another, the animal noises made by our story-teller Ravi, or the sudden arrival of unknown faces at their home, there was never a dull moment to ponder.
Personally, the entire experience was quite a heart-warming affair, not so much because of the poverty that we have all become immune to now, but because for those two hours, I forgot about my worries and enjoyed, along with the children and the others present, a world where we know everything in the end will be all right.