Tanvi Dayal, a class VIII student from Secundrabad who recently wrote a poem on Taj Mahal after watching National Geographic, rushes to her small journal every time she has a story idea in mind.

Srijan Pandey, a class VI student from Kolhapur, makes imaginary Vivan dream of a gadget-sporting spirit that can turn a desert into a patch of green by temporarily bringing the world to a standstill. And, Nirupama V. Shankar of class IX, who wants to be a journalist, looks for facts even in fiction.

These youngsters are among the 600-odd students handpicked from CBSE schools around the country to learn Haiku (very short Japanese poetry) and write stories as part of the CBSE-Katha initiative, a creative writing and translation competition which kicked off in July. The Board received around 4,000 entries for the contest.

Sita Umamaheswaran, principal, P.S.B.B. Millennium School, Gerugambakkam, the host school for the two-day regional workshop which began on Friday, says the 100 students from 31 CBSE schools have been divided into four groups — two attending fiction-writing sessions, and the other two, Haiku.

A similar workshop was held in Delhi last week

On Friday, as other children at the school went about their chores, the participants at the Haiku workshop were learning to differentiate between the essential and the excessive, the abstract and the concrete. Within two hours of the workshop, they came up with phrases such as ‘Under the thundering cloud, the lighthouse stands alone’.

“This is not Haiku yet. It is just a phrase,” warns resource person, Kala Ramesh, as she guides them through a Ginko walk (nature walk). Students have to decipher the grand design of nature in the smallest details.

They go back to their classrooms to ‘show, not tell’ on paper. “Haiku is like a semicircle, it’s half the image. The reader fills in the other half with her/his interpretation,” says another resource person, Geethanjali Rajan.

The emphasis of the competition is also on translations and reading in the mother tongue. “One of the students asked if she could write Haiku in her mother tongue, and I said, of course! We have strong Haiku in Tamil and other regional languages,” she says.

Select entries from the workshop will make it to the Katha Utsav to be held in December in Delhi, where the best story and translation will be awarded.

Gowri Palachandran, director (events), Katha, a non-profit organisation working in the field of publishing and storytelling, says, “The idea is to encourage students to write and read — importantly, stories in regional languages or their translations. How many students have read stories by authors such Jayakanthan or M. Mukundan?” she says.

If the Haiku sessions are about brevity, the fiction-writing sections are about getting students to “think about the structure, plot line and elements of the story, as honestly as possible,” says Naresh, CEO, Books Lovers Programme for Schools.

The students also viewed a Shekar Dattatri documentary and did an exercise where they fictionalised a part of the film that appealed to them.

“When a film can inspire them, their real life experiences are much richer. At the end of the day, they are aware of the parts of their lives that can be a part of their stories,” says Srivi, writer, educator, artist and director of Fooniferse Arts.