Open a book, start reading | Golpo Mela 2017

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Every year, Golpo Mela—the PeaceWorks Storytelling Festival is celebrated in a way that is slightly different from the previous one. This year turned out to be a landmark one, because Golpo Mela was celebrated twice and in completely different ways. We began the year with showcasing storytelling through films and we ended the year with celebrating reading, writing and the wonder of books.

On 24 November 2017 over 900 children and their teachers from after school centres and schools from all over the city gathered at Victoria Memorial under a shamiana decorated with origami fish and cats made from reused CDs. Volunteers had spent the morning hanging art work by the children they work with as a part of the Share Stories Open Minds project and the whole space bore a festive look.

The date was a special one. All over India, Scholastic carries out the One Nation Reading Together (ONRT) program on 24 November and this year, the event was presented at Golpo Mela.

‘ How do you add to the Sea of Stories?’

Jerry Pinto, the author of the ONRT pledge and award winning author, poet and translator spoke with the children about writing, reading and creativity. He spoke about the kinds of books one reads and enjoys and how anyone can add to the Sea of Stories. Jerry also spoke about challenging oneself when it comes to writing and telling stories. After listening to two stories from our young guests, our Special Guest, educationist Maryann Dasgupta spoke a few words about the importance of books. The Chairperson of Calcutta Round Table 7—who supported the event, also said a few words and even narrated a story for the children.

We moved onto the ONRT pledge, which was read out in Bengali by Satadru and in Hindi by Debjani—from Scholastic. Jerry read out the pledge in English.

‘ Go on then. I dare you.

Open a book, start reading.

An idea will pop out and change the way you see the world forever.

A character will emerge and become a lifelong friend.

You’ll travel places, you’ll see strange sights, you’ll hear new voices.

Another world will be born, one completely different from yours,

but somehow familiar too.’

– an excerpt from the pledge, written by Jerry Pinto

The games stalls were set up by La Martiniere for Boys, Frank Anthony Public School, Chowringhee High School, Sushila Birla High School, South City International School, Modern High School for Girls and Heritage School. Always a huge hit, long queues formed in front of the stalls almost immediately after they were opened. Games based on superheroes, quizzes, spin the wheel, colouring and other fun activities were in store for the children. The art corner was also very busy. The artwork was put up on the huge tree next to the art corner, making it an art filled tree! Two staff members from Scholastic dressed up as Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton—beloved characters from children’s storybooks— causing much excitement amongst the young guests. Kites were flown, with the older children showing the younger ones how to fly them.

An exciting day, gifts won, games played. Stories heard, stories told. Until next year!

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Paroma Sengupta

Photographs by Sagnik Karmakar