At last! Our first book festival event!
The event took place at the Oxford Bookstore in the centre of New Delhi (Waterstones, eat your heart out). The Oxford Bookstore is a treasure trove of books and Iris had to drag me away from the shelves so that we could introduce ourselves to the bookshop staff! We had an hour’s reading with some young Delhi teenagers – some brought from their schools, others by parents. We were in awe of their language skills; many Indian teenagers are bilingual, speaking both Hindi and fluent English. Later, we learned that this was because Indian children begin learning English as early as three or four, and in many homes English is spoken by parent to child. This all made our reading very pleasant as the audience understood all of Iris’s jokes! After our readings we had an interesting question and answer session, whilst enjoying soft drinks and biscuits that the bookstore staff brought for us all.
The Book Festival Commences…
Next, we were taken to the British Council offices where we had a buffet lunch in a courtyard with lots of teachers who were all ready for a day of workshops. We also met the wonderful writer and illustrator Emily Gravett, who is also involved in the Ghummakkad Narain (children’s book festival). It was nice to catch up with somebody closer to home and we swapped tales. We’ll be travelling with Emily and her partner when we go to Dehra Dun tomorrow.
In the afternoon Iris and I had been invited to give a workshop on teaching creative writing to the primary school teachers – all elegant ladies mainly dressed in saris (I was well jel! I love saris!). Interesting fact: Indian female school teachers are all called ‘mam’ rather than ‘miss’.
Iris kept them busy, getting them all to produce stories about two naughty German boys called Max and Moritz. They read out their stories and they were all very good – until one young teacher stood up and began hers. It soon became apparent she was acting out her story, swapping roles, running around – she had us all spellbound. Boy, is there talent in India! Afterwards, I gave everyone a taste of MMU’s Teaching Creative Writing Workshop. They loved it as much as our MA students do. Many of the teachers were very excited at the prospect of sending us the stories their children will go on to write.
We were pretty exhausted after all that high-octane teaching, and were glad to crash out back at the hotel.
But after a rest we realised that it was only 5pm and we fancied a little more action which we decided would take the form of shopping. We hailed a tuk-tuk to a recommended crafts shop and enjoyed hurtling through the streets of Delhi. The shop was beautiful and we might have bought some pashminas. We found the same tuk-tuk driver to take us back, and wandered through some markets and shops. I had to tell Iris to stop me buying everything in sight!
Tomorrow is our first big adventure – taking a train to Dehra Dun – around 6 hours travelling. It’s said to be quite an experience. To find out what kind of experience, watch this space.