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No retiring from fun

VIJAY LOKAPALLY
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Chat Kalpana Desai keeps the doors of creativity open with her combination of puppetry and teaching

For Kalpana Desai, it is not just an act of moving fingers that sets off a wave of joy among kids. Puppetry is an art that transports children into a world that looks make-believe but brings education in an enjoyable form. For years she used puppetry to initiate the kindergarten students to Baroda High School.

Needless to say, she made a place for herself in their hearts.

“Puppetry is a lovely platform because the kids love to interact and this medium gives us a way to tap their qualities and channel their energy. You have to understand the mindset of a child. Puppetry, colourful and innovative, helps you engage the attention of the child. It all boils down to your experience and desire to teach. Kids want to learn. We have to pick the best medium that can keep them attentive,” she says.

Puppetry, for storytelling or teaching, is a delightful medium.

“It helps you develop your teaching skills because you have to come up with new ideas and tales. It is challenging and yet very satisfying, because children learn because they are enjoying the process of learning. Obviously, one has to observe a lot and come up with an appealing script to make your point.”

Having taught for more than three decades, Kalpanaben knows best how to attract kids to a classroom when the playfield lures them. “Most people wrongly think puppetry would attract only those who love theatre. It is about movements and it is a nice way to share your experience. There is education through storytelling. Most importantly, it leaves a lasting impression because the kids pay attention.”

In what form does recognition come? She has a little anecdote. “On a hot day, I was going to school on my scooty when suddenly I was asked to pull over by this police officer. The traffic commissioner, I was told. I had not flouted any law, not jumped a light. I was worried. This young man stepped out, glared at me, and then touched my feet. He happened to be an old student, who loved my puppetry classes. It was very touching. I love it when these grownups insist on travelling back in time and enjoying a session of puppetry.”

For Kalpanaben, the kindergarten days of Baroda High School may seem past, but she relives those days at the Shram Mandir Trust on the outskirts of the city. The SMT is dedicated to serve leprosy patients.

“They deserve dignity from the society,” says Kalpanaben, who does volunteer work by teaching kids at Shram Mandir through puppetry.

Who says puppetry is a dying art? This energetic lady, at 70, is keeping it alive with her selfless service to society.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

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