KOCHI: They say a child’s mind is not a bucket to fill, but a fire to ignite. However, a number of teachers and parents can vouch for the fact that engaging a child’s attention is perhaps as challenging as cracking a complex math problem. But for 32-year-old storytelling expert Sitara Susheelan, it is a cakewalk.
She travels with her little audience on their flights of fancy as she narrates and enacts her saga, often to their amazement. Sitara will be conducting a story session for kids at Museum of History Kerala this weekend as part of its Women’s Day line-up.
Her storytelling sessions began as community reading initiatives in collaboration with Pratham Books, a non-profit storybook publisher for children when Sitara was living in Mumbai. “It started as occasional labour of love in 2015. I have always enjoyed a good narrative and have been reading to my daughter since she was a toddler. Slowly, I moved from reading to telling,” says the mother of a nine-year-old. Her very first attempt was an informal session she conducted for the kids of the gated community she lived in. “I thought I could take the sessions to a wider audience and approached the woman who owned a bookstore called Kahani Tree,” she says.
An erstwhile engineer who enjoys moonlighting as a writer, Sitara continued her passion project, taken by the wonder she saw in children. Over the last five years, she has conducted multiple sessions, the upcoming one being her second in Kochi. For the session, Sitara will be narrating a story she wrote, titled ‘I am a Shaheeh’. It tells the story of a young girl called Duniya. “The story has components of magic realism which would be interesting for children.
At the outset, it seems like a political account with feminist and religious connotations but goes beyond that. Duniya forgets the humanity inside her, the ability to laugh, belief, empathise and understand. I think it is important to teach kids about core human values. The arch line of the story is India, placed in the backdrop of the Shaheeh Bagh protests. The times we are living in call for a superhero and the protagonist is modelled after one,” says Sitara who works for the digital marketing team at her husband’s brokerage firm. The session which will last for about 90 minutes will conclude with a reading of the Preamble of the constitution and an activity.