Society

Stories under starlight

A small group of friends in the city presents free shadow puppet shows for children

Do adults listen and respond to the silliest of questions that children ask? “No,” says storyteller R Karthik. “People around them, their parents, uncles, aunts, don’t always have the patience to listen them out. Even in school, teachers constantly ask children to stop talking.” Karthik and his friends want to create a space in which children can play and listen to stories; where there are people to ask all sorts of questions without being judged; where children can just be. That space is ‘Open House,’ a single-storey house in Madipakkam. As a first step towards this vision, the team is putting up shadow-puppetry shows for children every Sunday.

“We’ve been holding shows for over four months now,” says Karthik, who works at Restore, an organic store. It started without a formal plan, actually. “Before I started working, I spent two-and-a-half years simply telling stories to children in Government schools in and around Perungudi, Manapakkam, and Kolapakkam,” says Karthik. And then he met M Isaiprakash, who holds theatre workshops in schools and colleges. The team grew bigger with B Gopi, Yuvaraj Harish, MR Nifasath Parveen, and Adindiran Sadasivam joining in at various points.

Stories under starlight

“Each of us brings in something to our shadow-puppetry shows. Isai and I are the narrators, while Gopi, Nifasath, and Harish are good at drawing; they make the cardboard puppets,” says Karthik. For stories, they look for inspiration in bilingual children’s magazine Thumbi. “We present them with little modifications,” he adds. “Right now, we have a set of 10 stories that we perform regularly.”

The shows happen on the terrace of Open House. “Once the sun goes down, we set up the screen and dive into the stories,” explains Karthik. He adds that they are in the process of creating a story series. “This will have a syllabus. If we present one story a week, we will follow it up with an activity based on it the next week. Children will draw, and enact the scenes.” The team hopes to take the series to as many children as possible. “We’ve been getting offers to perform at places other than Open House too,” explains Karthik. For instance, the team has been putting up shows at Restore, and for autistic children at the Knox Peadiatric Centre in Ekkaduthangal.

Open House in itself, has an interesting background. Karthik and a few friends took the place on rent, and it is open to anyone looking for a place to stay in the city for a brief while. “We’re open to people who are new to Chennai; travellers, those working for society, those seeking answers.” Karthik adds that it is also a space for “recycling and repurposing”. “We ask people who come to drop off things that they don’t need. We recycle them. At present, we are stitching cloth bags out of old clothes that people donated during the Chennai floods of 2015.”

The shadow puppet show is on at 7 pm, March 24, at 12/16, Ganesh Nagar, 3rd Cross Street, Madipakkam. (Near Our Lady Of Lourdes Church). Entry is free and is open to all. For details, 9840804465.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 2:12:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/stories-under-starlight/article26598779.ece

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