Daily, on his way to school, 13-year-old Arya Anand, would notice members from the transgender community. “They would be laughing among themselves, but there was also a sense of sadness,which I could feel. Some of them were entertaining others and begging for money, and so I wrote a story on them,” he says.
A student of Bhavan’s BP Vidya Mandir in Nagpur, he was one of the 600 students selected to participate in the three-day Katha Utsav, which was held last week at Ridge Valley School in Gurugram. Another student from the same school, Aseeta Pattanaik, finds empathy in the relationship her mother shares with Tai, an old woman who comes to sell food at her house everyday. “She was thrown out of her home by her son, and now fends for herself. I am inspired by the love and support my mother shows toward her,” she says.
Mentored by authors and illustrators in various workshops on poetry, ethnography, expressive arts and communication, theatre and heritage, the young authors had to look at the theme ‘Empathy’ from various standpoints. Uddiparna Goswami from Guwahati, spoke about her story.
“My mentor told us to draw stories from tradition, so I’ve written about a girl who fights witch-hunting, a practice prevalent in Assam where females who can’t bear children are ostracised,” she says. On the workshops, she says, “We were thrown out of our zones by the mentors. I am a fantasy writer, but I was given life in the real world.” Her friend Shamona Raj had written a science-fiction story, a genre that she delved into for the first time. She brings two aliens, Salom and Hazair, to the earth who want to create an empathy channel which connects the two planets through a wormhole and sucks in extra water from the Bermuda triangle.
Another student, Shreya Basu, of Tagore International School in Delhi, recited her poem, Watch More Sunsets than Netflix, in one of the workshops, where she compares her world with that lived by the older generations, where simplicity triumphed.
Started in 2013 by Katha, a children’s publishing house, Katha Utsav gives children an exposure to the field of literature and writing. Writers’ workshops were conducted at the regional levels, where around 1,500 stories were submitted. Out of these, 1,200 stories were selected to participate in the four Regional Writing Workshops — in Delhi, Bengaluru, Guwahati and Baroda — culminating into a grand finale called Katha Utsav in the Capital.
Writers and illustrators from different parts of the country, which included filmmaker-musician Aseem Asha Usman, writer-editor Anurag Garg, writer-theatreperson Lavanya Prasad, social activist Vikram Aditya Sahai, leadership coach, editor Ishani Butalia, among others, delved into the areas of their specialisation and practice and shared it with our students.