What happened in 2010? Hundreds of children’s books, tons of toys and dozens of DVDs lined the shelves of bookstores. Over the year, puppet plays, film screenings and clowns entertained kids as well. A study by the TV channel Nick India threw up disturbing results: only 25 per cent of children across six metros actually played outdoors on a daily basis. While there was lots of activities for kids, 2010 was really the year when children held art exhibitions, wrote books and even worked on a commercial play, with a little help from adults, of course.
When he was just 15, Christopher Paolini began writing Eragon, a story about a boy who takes up a quest along with his pet dragon. The book became a bestseller and was even turned into a Hollywood movie. Bollywood isn’t exactly enthused about signing movie deals with children, but this year two books written by children found mainstream publishers. Anshuman Mohan, 15, wrote Potato Chips (Harper), an earnest work about Aman Malhotra, who switches schools to join the prestigious St Xavier’s and tries desperately to fit in. Written with almost frank brutality, the book is packed with adolescent jokes and teen angst. Another author, the 17-year-old Arun Vajpai, teamed up with Anu Kumar to write On Top of the World (Puffin), an account of his expedition to Mount Everest. Vajpai is the youngest Indian to have climbed the mountain.
At Jalebi Ink, a media company for young adults, children got a chance to air their views about their neighbourhood, the environment and the world around them. In October, young reporters from Jalebi Ink’s Green Squad published Junknama, a newspaper about the environment. They wrote about garbage disposal, water woes and the diminishing green cover. They also visited Dharavi to witness waste recycling, interviewed environmentalists and covered programmes such as the Carter Road Car-Free Day. In a story titled “Trash Troopers”, the reporters pointed out that Mumbai produces more than 6,500 tonnes of garbage every day, “roughly equivalent to17 fully loaded Airbus A380s”. On October 10, the children distributed copies of the newspapers to evening walkers at Carter Road in Bandra and marched holding solar lanterns.
At Dreammakers 2010, students of Art 4 All managed to do what most adults haven’t. They displayed their paintings at Chemould Prescott Road Art Gallery and even sold some. “Mumbai through the eyes of children” featured iconic landmarks such as Flora Fountain surrounded by Gothic buildings and hoardings, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and Rajabai Tower, all painted by children. Images of traffic jams, petrol pumps and fishing colonies were rendered in bright colours. The kids were understandably excited about their paintings being displayed, but a few were concerned that if someone other than their parents bought their work, they wouldn’t be able to take it home.
When director Shaili Sathyu wanted to produce a children’s play this summer, she delved into a pool of ideas generated by kids. The result wasSuar Chala Space Ko, a quirky play about a smelly pig who travels to space. “The play is based on a puppet play originally written by children during a workshop that I conducted in 2001,” said Sathyu. “The play developed in an organic way, with children thinking of different plots and putting them together. The title of the play was conceived by the kids.” In May, Thespo, a youth theatre initiative from Q Theatre Productions, conducted “Dramabaazi”, a children’s workshop. The result was The Mighty Mirembayanna and the Prisoners of Peace, a play about peace and war. Toral Shah of Q Theatre said that they thought the workshop was a great way for kids to experience “what it’s like to go through a rehearsal process, learn lines, get into costume, wait in the wings for their entry and have an audience”. With most plays for children being written and performed by adults, this summertime was a welcome change.
By Bijal Vachharajani on December 23 2010