Updated: Jan 4
The buzz around the Indian’s only Green LitFest started when I was invited to be a jury advisor in the children’s literature category. I had been writing reviews and features on the Sustainability Next blog ever since the blog started and was excited about the honour book list.
The role along with 4 others…. educators Archana Atri, educator and author Timira Gupta, Yuvan Aves, doyenne of children’s literature Vidya Mani and the co-founder of the Green Literature Festival, Meghaa Gupta, was a sort of ‘pre-jury’ role as the final jury was made up of children.
The Green Literature festival (GLF) was held in Bangalore International Center, a beautiful venue, this past Sunday, 18th December, 2022.
Literature is the perfect way for us to raise awareness and inspire action. Children’s literature is the perfect way to help make environment awareness and care second nature to the future generation.
Meghaa Gupta, welcomed us, while the Children of the Parikrama School joyfully opened the day.
Benedict Paramanand, the co-founder of the GLF, welcomed us and spoke about the need for the planet to heal, working towards UN’s sustainability development goals, 2030.
The keynote by Prof.Mahesh Rangarajan was insightful and left us with plenty of food for thought as we embraced the day and all its offerings. He spoke about how all life on earth lives within the ‘biosphere’, a space we share with all forms of life. What stood out for me is how he linked the environment movement…this awareness of ‘other’s’ as the foundation that supports other social movements as we begin to be aware and care for the dignity of others.
The questions Prof Rangarajan pose, left me deeply reflective as I rushed to the library to attend storyteller Lavanya Prasads moving telling of Amrita Devi Bishnoi. Chit-chatting casually with the children about environmentalism, Lavanya drew the children into the story and held them there with song, chants, questions and drama, leading them on to the history of more recent Chipko movement.
The next session was Bijal Vachharajani’s Nature Writing Workshop, which she started by speaking about the cave paintings of Bhimbekta to emphasise how we all tell stories and have always told stories.
She guided the children, along with the children at heart, to use their five senses to describe their city, leading onto a wonderful creative writing exercise and sharing. Bijal has a wonderful easy manner about her and the children responded to her prompts surprising and delighting us all with their responses. Weaving her magic, Bijal got young and old alike cooing and hooting and wotnot-ing to her prompts.
Before we could think of what to do next, Vidya breezed in with ribbon tied books to be launched by WWF:
Shorewalk by Yuvan Aves
Up the Mountains of India by Mala Kumar
When the Jungle’s Whisper by Preethi Menon
As each author shared about their books, their interaction with the children spoke volumes!
I was struck by the conviction and passion of these ‘green’ authors. Paraphrasing Radhika Suri of WWF, they are the voices nature needs.
Yuvan spoke about creating a connection with place, which will then help people see the value in it and feel like saving it.
Preethi used the old tale of Red Riding Hood to draw attention to the animal’s side of the story…by changing the perspective. Her book is about the endangered species across India.
Mala Kumar spoke about the wonderful mountains across the country.
All this interaction nudged us to reflect, tugged at our heartstrings but also got our tummies rumbling!!!
A wonderful south Indian lunch awaited us on the terrace.
Pop- up bookshops by Atta Galatta and Funky Rainbow, had ‘green reads’ available for children and adults. The gallery upstairs had stalls from Small Steps/Tsunamika, Red Soil Spring Children’s Magazine, Friday’s For Future, green gifts from Tamaala and more.
With the day so packed I found myself rushing to Rohan Chakraborty’s session ‘Solve a Crime Scene with Naturalist Ruddy.’
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” …Sherlock Holmes
Quoting the literary detective, Rohan guided children through logically solving a crime scene.
Breaking down the scene one clue at a time, he guided the children to solve the time and nail the culprit. From noticing the drag marks, to the paw prints, to the presence of claw marks on one set of prints and their absence on the other, to comparing size…Rohan nudged the children (and adults) to think analytically clue by clue.
His book Naturalist Ruddy is absolutely brilliant and this session was gob-smackingly brilliant too. The children all rushed to the Rohan’s map of Kanha to try and spot Ruddy…the detective mongoose!! With the danger of the screen falling in the rush, Rohan hilariously shouts out,
“Don’t touch wild animals!!!”
And then it was time for the award ceremony!!!
The awards in the General & Non-fiction and the Business categories were followed by the awards in the Children's Literature category.
The awards went to:
Savi and the Memory Keeper by Bijal Vachharajani, published by Hachette
Naturalist Ruddy by Rohan Chakravarty published by Penguin
Bumoni's Banana trees by Mita Bordoloi, illustrated by Tariq Aziz, published by Tulika Books
A more recent attendee of LitFests, I was delighted to meet so many from the kidlit tribe with whom I have only interacted with online like, Bijal Vachharajani, Menaka Raman, Niyatee Sharma, Sunila Kulkarni, Shyamala Shanmugasundaram, Roopa Baliga, Mala Kumar, Preethi Menon, Anam Fatima and storyteller Lavanya Prasad!! (forgive me if I’ve forgotten to mention anyone!!)
As always it is always special to meet now old kidlit friends like Asha Nehemiah, Vidya Mani, Shyam Madhavan Sharada, Meghaa Gupta, and Yuvan Aves. Meeting fellow children’s literature always gives me a high!!
It was wonderful to meet the Green Lit Fest team of Benedict Paramanand, Meghaa Gupta, Vidya Mani and Richa Chaddha, whom I applaud for so organising a litfest that focusses on green literature for children and thank them for including me in the role of a jury advisor.