Writer Mamata Pandya and photographer and illustrator Pankaj Gorana visited Fountainhead School in Surat on 17 February 2012. They shared their experience of developing the book The Coral Tree, and interacted with the students and teachers. The response was overwhelming… What better place to talk about books than a school that has DEAR days. That is Drop Everything And Read! This is when everyone in school is invited to find themselves a cozy spot, and read away to their heart’s content. Such is the Fountainhead School in Surat, where Pankaj and I spent a happy day sharing experiences and thoughts on writing and illustrating, with groups of children. We were there to launch The Coral Tree. Interestingly, many of the students had already read the book in the school library, or had acquired copies of their own. So rather than a read aloud session we told the story of how the book evolved from what started as a casual ‘looking out’ from our window, and then growing to really ‘seeing’ the tree as we observed it round the year.
We shared how the final look and feel of the book also evolved synergetically between Niveditha at Tulika and the two of us in Ahmedabad. We also planted the seeds of many ideas with the potential of growing and blossoming into interesting projects, like keeping a tree diary, documenting the trees on the school campus, and preparing a display of seasonal sights for the school walls.
We spent an hour outdoors for a hands-on Exploring a Tree session. It was fun and games as students made new tree friends and took their leaf and bark autographs, and played a guessing game to identify other friends in nature.
An interaction with grade six students as part of their Exhibition project was lively and thought provoking. This year the students are exploring the theme “How we express ourselves”. As part of this they inquire and appreciate the various ways in which people get influenced in their lives i.e. the various modes of expression- literature, drama, art, music, speech etc and which later plays a pivotal role in their lives. As a writer and artist/photographer team, we went back to our childhood when the children asked about who or what inspired us to do what we do now; they quizzed us on what we enjoy, and what we find challenging in our work. We exchanged notes on our favourite authors and books, and different ways of expressing ourselves.
It was indeed a joy to share with children who are voracious readers, and have the fortune to be in a school which proactively promotes a climate and culture of reading, offers an attractive and welcoming library fuelled by enthusiastic Jyoti and creative Vipul, and of course, not to forget the DEAR days!
Read some student responses to the photographs in the book!
"You take the pictures in a calm way so that the bird/animals etc don’t go away." Krushna Balan
"Your illustrations are unique because it is not just about taking relevant or making relevant illustrations, its about taking right pictures and that’s what is unique in your work." Khushi Gajjar
"I actually felt the liveness in the photos. The angle in which the photograph was clicked and how closely we could see the birds. It was amazing." - Astha Tewari
"I want to learn photography from you. Can you teach me?" - Dhruv Rathod