The Sultan of Storytelling
Renowned children’s author Ramendra Kumar (Ramen) had a “rollicking time” at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2019 (SCRF), spinning yarns, conducting story telling sessions and interacting with vibrant minds in various schools in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. He takes us on a thrilling journey of eating, talking, dreaming stories with kids and also a glimpse into how this fabulous festival treated him.
Learning and Creativity presents LnC Special Edition of Ghost Stories by Children that came out of Ramen’s sessions at the SCRF 2019.
“Sir, how much of your own personality is reflected in your characters?”
“How do you feel when your book is rejected by the publisher?”
“What is your response when the book you write doesn’t end the way you imagined it would?”
“What inspired you to start writing?”
“I am a writer and I get my ideas from the world around me and also from my family – there is lot of drama in my family.”
No, these are not questions/comments from scholars pursuing their doctoral programme. These are queries and statements made by children between the ages of 9 and 13 studying in the Emirates of Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
I was invited to take part in the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF), held from April 17 to 27. SCRF, which was held under the directive of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, featured 33 authors, the best in children and young adult literature, from 18 countries.
I participated in two panel discussions on The Craft of Writing Children’s Books and Fiction in Children’s and Young Adults’ Literature. My co-panelists represented different nationalities, languages and cultures.
I was also taken to two schools in Abu Dhabi (Dunes International & Bright Riders School) and two in Sharjah (Our Own English High School for Girls & Ambassador School) as a part of the festival’s outreach programme.
Amled School in Dubai had heard about me from the SCRF organizers and had also received a positive feedback from the other schools in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. They contacted me on Facebook and extended a special invite beyond the schedule of the Festival.
In all the schools I discussed the art of spinning yarns, conducted story telling sessions and interacted with the vibrant minds. I spoke on various issues like the art of writing, my favourite genre – sports fiction, some of my favourite books as well as my most challenging and fulfilling moments as a writer.
Normally for authors turned storytellers, the near ideal size of the audience is 75-100. In one of the schools in Abu Dhabi when I entered the auditorium, which was almost half as big as a football field, I found it bursting with kids.
“H… how many children are there?” my saner half Madhavi asked.
“1100!” pat came the reply.
She looked at me, worry writ large on her beautiful face. I gave her a thumbs up sign and unleashed myself on the unsuspecting audience. And the result was one of the most rollicking sessions I ever had. I told a story, chanted a mantra, answered questions, warded off autograph hunters and soaked in the ambience of sublime chaos… I felt like the Sultan of Storytelling.
The children were bright, with tons of ideas, oodles of imagination and chunks of chutzpah. In fact the young minds are the same everywhere. All we writers need to do is to connect and catalyze.
I was interviewed by Sharjah TV and my programmes were widely covered in the social media. My books were on display at the festival venue and in different schools.
The festival is one of the best events related to children’s literature which I have attended. For sheer variety, grandeur and sweep SCRF was awesome. Hundreds of activities for children related to storytelling, illustrations, art, craft, puppetry, magic, culinary skills, histrionics, AI, et al drew thousands of young minds. Besides, trysts with history, mythology, browsing, science and space made the SCRF a one stop shop for anyone desirous of a date with creativity.
What impressed me the most was the meticulous planning by the organisers. I got an invite from Ms. Qurratulain Fatima Yahya, Cultural Events Executive – International, Sharjah Book Authority on January 2, more than three months before the event. Since then, we exchanged more than thirty mails regarding the details of the Fest.
Qurrat booked the tickets, organised the visa, health insurance, accommodation, social calendar, school visits and panel discussions etc. as per our convenience. I have yet to come across such visitor-friendly focus.
On reaching Dubai, as we emerged from the aircraft we were met by a young lady who ushered us out through the immigration in a matter of minutes. On all the school visits I was accompanied by a volunteer and was told, a day before, the exact time of departure. The schools too were told about my coming and they were ready and waiting – red carpet and all! A car was ready for us whenever and wherever we wanted to explore the city.
“I have never, ever felt so pampered – neither in fests, nor in my father-in-law’s nest,” I told Madhavi. “You are getting far more than you deserve,” she quipped, bringing me back to terra firma, a bit too quickly.
Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2019 (SCRF) is held annually under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Muhammad Al Qasimi.
Themed ‘Explore Knowledge’ this year, the event ran from 17-27 April 2019, at the Sharjah Expo Centre. In addition to bringing 167 publishers from 18 countires around the world under its roof, the festival hosted 198 guests from 56 countries and featured 2,546 activities, in addition to a series of film screenings and theatrical performances.
Ramendra Kumar at the panel discussions
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