Talk to ponder

We just winded up the second contact classes of the 3rd batch of Library Educator’s Course and one thing that stayed with me this time was the ‘need to talk’ about literature. As we tried to look at literature with different lenses and understand reader response we stumbled with the fact that perhaps except a few, the opportunity and space to talk about literature seems like a rare occasion or perhaps missing from our lives. A talk from the heart, devoid of any fear of being judged or free of the motive to arrive at the ‘right’ response. LEC brings a range of literature to participants and when it’s time to read or engage with a book in a session, for a participant the outcome in focus overtakes any one-to-one with the text… But often when we pause and ponder during this process or hear out others, what unfolds is a rich personal sharing which fills small group conversations. And it doesn’t always emerge on its own, but is sometimes created and nurtured.

When struck with an abundance of literature in these four to six days of our coming together, time falls short for emotions to unfold and an open sharing. Words fail our articulation. In the daily bustle of life we perhaps forget or overlook our need to talk about what we read. And ordinary schooling doesn’t tell us in any way that we need to talk. As educators we too rush to transfer our understanding to children/teachers and the trap of one right interpretation spreads.

During LEC I realized, everyone had so much within them, so beautifully tied with a memory, an experience, a feeling but it takes a lot for it to emerge.

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A participant expressed her need to talk about a poem on Gujarat riots by Anshu Malviya and the insane violence that is difficult to imagine, someone was drawn to the sadness that a son’s hanging brought to an old father in “Samudr tat par’ by O.V Vijayan, or the happiness that surrounded a dying street child in ‘Maachis bechne wali ladki’ by Hans Christian Andersen or the friendship of Mukand and Riaz amidst the backdrop of partition told so beautifully by Nina Sabnani, reminded a few of us of our own lost friends and the digital age which perhaps makes that loss ‘not so precious’. And there could be much more that is left unsaid and untold. More than anything we would learn or gain from such reading, what became important was our own thoughts about them. How they shaped, what they mean for another reader and for our larger presence and role in our current world. We all perhaps might have read something beautiful in our lives that stayed with us and might have just answered some ‘textbookish’ questions about it. But have we spoken what stirred our heart or what kept bringing that book back on our reading list or kept it away or connected us to something or drowned us in ideas or….the list is endless.

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A participant from a tribal background expressed how people he met always told him ‘to read’ and here in the Library course, friends ask ‘have you read this book?’ and there begins a conversation. This is not a matter of just reading but the identity that is associated with a reader. Perhaps libraries were meant to be such spaces. And against the common belief it is not just a space for the reader but also the non-reader because both are not passive beings of this world and are reading the world continuously.

In my own childhood and while growing up, the experience of a library was that of a ‘Silent’ room where you are with your ‘self’ and the book and your thoughts. What’s the value of sharing? Can any dialogue bring me more than the book tells me and is it important to make? To me personally, ‘talking’ only brings more and I go back to the book and re-think. I re-think about how my mind worked on this and how the other reader interpreted the same thing, what the author is saying to me and why, and why I believe or resent it or accept it with my own lens. As we move ahead with this course, the need to talk about literature or enable this for children’s libraries gets stronger in my head but only when we ourselves have opened our mind to it.

Ajaa is a Faculty with the Library Educator’s Course.

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