7:25 am , 25th August 2023, my train slowly entered into the Madurai Junction. Though it was delayed by almost 40 mins at my boarding point in Bengaluru, it was bang on time to arrive at Madurai.
“Yes! The time has come! It is happening! I have come! “– My inner voice spoke to me. My excitement grew. I was the first one to reach Madurai among the 17 speakers who were arriving for the Madurai Children’s Literaty Festival (MCLF). After checking into the hotel, I refreshed myself, had a nice, hot South-Indian breakfast, showered and rested well. Soon, people started arriving from Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi etc. Though I was meeting most of them for the first time in-person, it never felt like that and we connected so quickly.
I took a deep breath.
I pinched myself.
“Ok! This is all happening for real!”, I re-assured myself 😊
As a storyteller, I have been part of quite a few storytelling festivals like BeSt (Bengaluru Storytelling) Festival, Chennai Storytelling Festival, Katha Parab – Jharkhand Storytelling Festival, Morocco Marrakech International Storytelling Festival, FEAST Fest etc but technically the first time at a Literary Festival. It was lovely sharing the space with illustrators, authors, publishers along with ofcourse my own tribe of storytellers.
26th August, the festival started off with traditional lighting of lamp, inauguration ceremony and a Scholastic Published book launch followed by the day’s schedule of sessions, workshops and panel discussions. School students had come in big numbers along with children from outside too. I had my first session at 11:30 am for 8-10 yrs. Olds. I entered the room full of listeners already beaming. Quite a few parents too joined in along with the teacher volunteers.
I chose to tell my all-time favourite folktale from Madhya Pradesh. Why favourite? Well, as a trained classical singer, I always love to weave in musical elements in my storytelling and this folktale gave me immense scope for that. Not just that. Folklore being my favourite genre too, I always try to do my research to understand the culture, see if I can pick some cultural elements that I can add on to the telling, learn the culture specific songs etc. Also, being a folktale, I have the creative license to tweak it. And voila! I got my story!!! 😊.
I could see the audience singing, swaying, giggling and enjoying as the story unfolded. And when it was done, it was amazing to see everyone walk up to me to share their appreciation with me personally. Teachers walked up to me to say, “Ma’am, I have become your fan!”
“I want to come for your next session too!”, said another.
And what more could a storyteller ask for! Indeed, so heart-warming!
This was followed by a panel discussion on the “Power of Storytelling” for me post lunch. Being part of a panel discussion especially with greats like Jeeva Raghunath Ma’am and Geeta Ramanujam Ma’am was definitely not something I had expected. While I was feeling happy, I was nervous too. Ms. Padmavathi, a school Principal who moderated the discussion had done her research well and she asked relevant questions to each one of us and finally a generic, open question to the panel.
Hmmm… I must admit that I personally had some take-aways from this experience. The day ended well on a positive note.
27th August – the next day again started with a function. Motivational Speaker and Influencer Madurai Ramakrishnan was the Chief Guest. No doubt he has the talent to keep the audience entertained and engaged. He clearly demonstrated the power of stories – Yes! His entire speech was a collection of small stories that kept the entire auditorium filled with children and adults alike, hooked! Kudos to him!
This was again followed by the schedule of sessions for the day. I had 2 storytelling sessions for 2 age groups: 3-7yrs and 11-14 yrs. It was my first time with the teenagers but keeping it more discussion driven helped. It was received well. Finally, my last session for the day and the festival was with the little ones. I chose to do Kamishibai Storytelling – it was an African folktale and I again weaved in songs. The audience loved the song so much that they wanted to sing it again towards the end of the story. Again, a well-received session with equal participation from children and parents.
As they say, “For everything in life, there is always a beginning…” . And this was my beginning with Children’s Literary Festivals @ Oru Oorula. Looking forward to many more in the future.
Thanks to Ms. Preethy for having me as part of this festival.
Thanks to all speakers
for the lively conversations, crazy laugh-out-loud moments together. I bring back loads of wonderful memories and stories to cherish forever.