Nandana Dev Sen takes little ones on a trip to her wonderland of stories

She left nearly 70 playschool kids engrossed for two hours. Not a mean feat, considering they were sitting inside a crowded 1,500sq ft bookstore with strangers around them. But author-actress Nandana Dev Sen’s storytelling session at Oxford Subscription Company Bookstore on Picnic Garden Road on August 23 left the little ones happy and yearning for more. 

By Chandreyee Ghose
  • Published 27.08.18
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Nandana Dev Sen enacts Mambi and the Forest Fire with playschool kids

She left nearly 70 playschool kids engrossed for two hours. Not a mean feat, considering they were sitting inside a crowded 1,500sq ft bookstore with strangers around them. But author-actress Nandana Dev Sen’s storytelling session at Oxford Subscription Company Bookstore on Picnic Garden Road on August 23 left the little ones happy and yearning for more. 

“They start paying attention when they realise you want to play! Have fun with them and don’t talk down to them,” said the author, explaining how she captures young hearts before regaling her audience with the tale of a monkey, turtle and crow. Her stories were peppered with action, interaction, props and audio-visual clips that kept the energy levels high. 

In the programme organised by Oxford Subscription Company and Early Childhood Association (ECA) Calcutta chapter, children and teachers of five montessori schools got a peek into Nandana’s world and childhood through her books.
As the author read out from Mambi and the Forest Fire, Talky Tumble of Jumble Farm and Not Yet, some of her young audience were invited to join in for some action.

“I was Koko the crow today but I want to be Mambi next time,” said Shrutika Ratia of Leapyears Preschool, showing how Nandana taught her to “swish her tail”.

Her co-actor Sankhadip Guin of Verbena Pre and Primary School had come all the way from Khardah to clinch the dream role.

Next, it was time for some wordplay. “My father (Nobel laureate Amartya Sen) introduced me to an amazing world of puzzles. We would solve world puzzles, logic puzzles and math puzzles together,” said Nandana. On an activity board, ‘Amartya Sen’ emerged from ‘As Neat as Mary’, as the author introduced the kids to anagrams. She also read out a poem from Talky Tumble of Jumble Farm to teach them antonyms. 
 

Nandana at the storytelling session at Oxford Subscription Company bookstore on Picnic Garden Road

The session ended with yet another poem — Not Yet — a mother-daughter story dedicated to her mother, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, where the audience played the chorus.  

“How many of you try to put off sleep? How many of you keep thinking of the adventures you could have had?” she asked.

Every hand — young and old — went up as Nandana told the tale of a girl who loved her imaginary world more than her real one full of boring tasks. The Bengali version of the poem, translated by Nandana and her mother, followed before Nandana signed copies for her eager fans.

“I want to meet Nandana. She will take me to Mambi,” said Rayandeb Ghosal of Mongrace Montessori House as he shyly inched towards the author. He had come with 24 others from his school. “Our children are used to regular storytelling sessions in their school. But they were very excited to come to a new venue for a session,” said Suman Sood, the director of the institution.

Nandana is at present working on her next, a children’s book on adoption. “It presents a more inclusive concept of family for all kids as an adopted little girl comes to terms with her layered identity,” she said.

The other participating institutions included Swarnim International School and I Play I Learn. An interaction between author Ritu Vaishnav of Pink and Blue and ECA head Suman Sood followed.

Pictures: B. Halder