It is an attempt to place on record only a couple of my experiences as the Founder of Children’s Literary Club (CLC), a voluntary organization. It reflects the genesis, the course taken to translate my ideas into action and the outcome. It gives a fairly detailed list of the diverse programmes conducted by CLC with a few details about the structure/texture of the programmes.

As I go down the memory lane, I pause for a while on the day I decided to do something for the little girl, who was engrossed from morning till late evening, playing the popular game among children the “House Game”. I resolved to plan something to engage Shruti, the only child of her parents, during her October vacation. That I wanted to do something for her was a feeling, an impulse and nothing at all to do with any Theory. The next step was to talk to Rati, the girl next door, persuading the two kids to be part of the plan that had begun to take some shape in the corner of my mind/heart. It helped provide a direction. I wondered later why it should not be extended to other children also.  A little later an assemblage of two children touched two figures. After some dialogue between several voices within me, I decided to christen the voluntary organization “Children’s Literary Club” (CLC), resolving to keep the doors open for all children. The next decision was that it was going to be a Club with zero account, for I had also decided not to collect any fee from children, nor raise funds to run the show. I had determined to shoulder the entire burden of running the organization, where there was not going to be hierarchy/competition/ or corrupt practices. No, it was not definitely facile to keep the organization on the move or run the show. What egged me on to continue, (irrespective of the bites/or pecks by several parents/beneficiaries) was only the insurmountable faith in my conviction. Yes, it was my desire to be with and do something good for children, that kept me going, and CLC has seen 27 October months.

At the outset, I provided opportunities to children to make short speeches. To begin with all that I did was to let children address those who had assembled on a particular topic I had listed. Parents were encouraged to prepare their wards to make an impressive presentation. Whenever parents were either not interested in preparing their child or even if interested not equipped to shoulder this, I shouldered the responsibility myself. That no prizes were given away to the more impressive children, nor heavy praises followed them, made several parents sulk. That I was also allowing kids from the lower strata of society was another eye sore to several parents, who hailed from the cream of society.  A few parents turned red, when their kid either fumbled or failed to deliver the material in an eye catching way. No, this was contrary to my concept of what Children’s Literary Club should be. Such heartburns made me revisit on the chemistry of the participants. CLC was not there to continue/reiterate or encourage the maladies of the educational system. It was not meant to act as a prop to the discussion dominant child, but to bring about a difference in the world of all children who came to CLC. When I was reflecting on what I needed to do to weed out unsavoury elements, the suggestion from a few parents that I keep out those from the marginalized/the underprivileged and such other children, made me decide that I keep their children out; for my intention was not to make the ‘high’ go ‘higher’, but to make the lowly and the lost scale higher.

I decided that Children’s Literary Club will cater to the all-round development of Children hailing from all sections of society. Many young minds from the lowest strata of society have been deprived of many opportunities. My desire was to turn such children whom society had marginalised by labelling them second grade and third grade into first grade. The beneficiaries of the activities conducted by CLC are the children of construction workers, vegetable/milk vendors, petty shop owners, domestic helps, sellers of spicy puffed rice, auto drivers, factory workers, agricultural labourers, students of Government/Government-aided schools, the students of the hostels that house SC/ ST and orphan children, besides children who come from disturbed families; socially ostracized HIV positive children and the children of the people with criminal background.

My objective was to make CLC emerge as a cure for the ills of the present day education system. Having been born with an alternative vision of education, it has never gone back on its democratic principles. I have seen to it that unhealthy rivalry and competition do not worm their way into the acquisition of knowledge, by providing equal opportunities for every child. Till now, CLC has not conducted competitions.

Terms/Theories/Methods like ‘Inclusive Education’ / ‘Student Centric’ / ‘Drama-based Instruction’/ ‘Educational Theatre’/ ‘Interdisciplinary’ / ‘‘Green Studies’ / ‘Group Learning’ / ‘Code-Mixing’/ ‘Code-Switching’ / ‘Drilling Method’/ ‘Queer Theory’ did not exist for me when I was planning my programmes. I conceived ideas and translated the same into action, for my heart kept telling me that it was RIGHT and TRUE. Looking at the response of the target group, I knew that the way, I had chosen to tread was right and righteous. I do not disregard/or dismiss Theories, but I formulated nothing/ did  nothing to accommodate a Theory, or use a Theory as a framework to fit my ideas, except when I planned a programme to celebrate the Birth Centenary of Simone de Beauvoir and to some extent that of Kuvempu.  I would be dishonest if I fail to admit that several times lines from Poetry/Prose did motivate me to plan programmes. It was not ‘Queer Theory’ but the line “Hey, Number 9!” on page 4 of A. Revathi’s The Truth about Me: A Hizra Life Story, that ignited me to conduct a programme on “The Problems of the Transgender” and have the participants enact a few chapters from her Autobiography.

Presenting Garlands/bouquets/and trays full of fruits to the guests is alien to CLC’s ways. Simplicity is of utmost importance here, as there is the danger of children growing up in a tradition of garlands and bouquets, observing it all.

It is important that a child should grow comprehensively. Children ought to be encouraged to learn the beauty, value and range of several disciplines. The projects are conceived to cover a range of experiences – Literature, Science, Fine Arts, Society and Nature.

I have conceived the idea and executed thousands of programmes. I provided opportunity for children to make brief speeches in the beginning. I started the programme in both the languages – Kannada and English – as the main aim of the Club was to make them proficient in these two languages. Initially, Shruti started teaching English Grammar to children coming from Kannada medium schools. The aim of making grown up children share with the little ones what they have learnt also has been fulfilled by this. Children who stood and behind their mother’s seragu and stared, today speak boldly. Children from the neighbouring villages who visited their relatives here during vacation, attended the programmes conducted by CLC and shared what they had learnt here with other children after returning to their village. Kaveri, who is now a Headmistress, was all joy to remember what she had learnt at CLC during her stay with a relative.  This excites me. I like the manner of disseminating good culture.

Quiz is a very popular programme. I must say a word about it. The danger of the second grade children retreating into themselves once more was ever present. I did not hold competitions in order to escape from such danger. Along with selecting a topic for the quiz, I provided them detailed information related to the topic. Children memorized the entire valuable information, in the process of preparing for the quiz; many things took root in their mind. I have much faith in repetition and reiteration, but in a joyous way. As they memorized the information, the words entered their blood stream (like we repeat musical notes to have the same ingrained). It is enough if a child answers approximately thirty of fifty small questions; it is as good as the child winning. If the children of the poor know at least five out of ten items, they will not bow their head.
Reciting the Tables in reverse was another engaging programme conducted by CLC. With the availability of calculators and made-easy devices, the interest to learn tables is unfortunately waning. Engaging programmes like “Bus Game” and “Reverse Tables”, (Children are trained to recite the tables in the reverse order) have helped children master the same.

Siblings’ Day
On “Siblings’ Day”, children under seven were the main actors. The other children acted as spectators/spect-actors. From first to last, children managed the show; presiding, welcoming, introducing, proposing vote of thanks, etc. The model was evolved to habituate them at a young age to this discipline.
The need to inculcate an interest in literature at an early age in children is the duty of every adult. In order to drive home the point that “books are forever”, children are encouraged to read, talk and write about the books owned or borrowed by them. “Reading maketh a full man: conference a ready man and writing an exact man.” The aim is not merely to make children acquire a desired vocabulary, structure and patterns but also to cultivate a taste for good literature.

Workshops on

Why attempt Translation? Literary giants are accessible to us through Translations. How demanding it is for the translator to recreate the mighty minds in another language. Shivaram Karanth’s Mey Managala Suliyalli was one of the books I have worked on for my Doctoral Study. Since it was not then available in translation, I myself had to translate select portions of the book.  It was then that I realized how challenging the task was. The quest to find the absolute word was both demanding and delightful. Such an exploration and discovery inspired me to instil this discipline in children. The outcome was a Workshop I conducted for children. As part of the workshop, children were made to read Telugu, Urdu, Kannada and Hindi stories, available in translation. They were also taught the origin of the word ‘Translation’. Interestingly, children memorised the titles of more than 30 books with the names of the translators besides the names of original writers. Children read the original and C.P. Ravichandra’s Translation of U. R. Ananathamurthy’s Poem “Kumara Gandharva”.  Besides an interactive session with Prof. C. Naganna, a few youngsters translated on the spot, a part of Leo Tolstoy’s story “Children may be Wiser than Elders” into Kannada in a befitting style. Children did to some extent realize that mastery over both the languages is a must for a translator. The Grandfather-The Grandson and other Stories, by I.L. Aalaap (then aged 10) was another contribution of CLC to the World of Translation. In his Translator’s Note, I.L. Aalaap writes “I will now share with you my experience as a translator. At the outset, I started translating words, small sentences and tiny stories. Later aunt Purnima suggested that I should start translating my grandfather’s (M. Rama Rao) stories for children. When the suitable words did not flash, I felt bored. I felt like giving up. But I did not. Though it was difficult, I continued to attempt. Gradually I picked up. My vocabulary increased, my capacity to spell improved. I learnt to consult the dictionary. I began to think of the right word. I realized the need to punctuate. If I felt that my translation was not good, I attempted again and again. When I was able to do it, I felt happy. Now I enjoy doing it.” 


Since my firm conviction is that all are children before Knowledge, I continued to ignite adult students to take up translation work. My Ph.D student, Dr. N.M. Gayathri’s responses were positive. She began to take up translation work intensively and extensively.


Developing the Critical Enquiry
In the present context of a diminishing habit of reading among adults as well as students, Children’s Literary Club has been giving proper training in reading, comprehension, and writing. As part of the Workshop, Children presented their opinion on several texts/articles, like Choma’s Drum,/“Hori Habba”, The World Book.

Solo Exhibitions of Paintings by Children
The solo art exhibitions of Tarana Kuttappa (aged 16) and Shashanka Suresh (aged 9) drew the attention of everybody. The manner in which the budding painters had attempted to reflect in their own style all the objects and events that they had seen in the everyday life was impressive. More than 200 paintings were exhibited.

Though I named it Children’s Literary Club, I have not given importance merely to literature. Ultimately my aim is for children to learn of “beauty”, “value”, and “expanse”. I inspired them to relate to nature. The Flower Show which we had organized was in fulfilment of that. Children themselves had sowed the seed and tended the plants. Identifying the leaves was another programme to do with nature studies.

Lines “Little we see in Nature that is ours” (“The World Is Too Much With Us” by Wordsworth) and “A sea of foliage runs our garden round, /But not a sea of dull unvaried green,” (“Baugmaree” by Toru Dutt) did haunt me often. (Definitely my idea was not to talk to children about loaded words like ‘Pantheism’ or reel out reams of information about “Green Studies”). Reflecting over the lines, I found the necessity of observing minutely and sharply the leaves around us. The wish was to centre the attention on the inner structure of the leaves. Children should learn the difference between the superficial and the real. The leaves look alike from outside, but each leaf is different in its structure. I desired to have them drawn through children’s eyes. So I made them sit in front of leaves and draw. They have drawn them without plucking the leaves. That’s special.   

The tools were only Nataraja pencil and paper, proving that though the tools that we use are simple, the artefacts which are produced from them are incomparable. As children sat outside the house they achieved a different kind of intimacy with nature.

Attention improved with this process of drawing the leaf pattern. They learnt to observe the things closely with unwavering eye and attention. As both the ugly and the beautiful simultaneously exist in life, children not only observed the beautiful leaves but also those about to fall; and leaves half eaten by insects. These children did not draw them at one sitting. They had the advantage of several weeks of training. I also observed that after they began to draw, their hand writing improved.

They have sketched coriander which we see every day to some rare leaves; both the ordinary and the exotic. Nothing was ignored. Shashanka had drawn both the leaf and the shadow. A well known artist, who noticed this in the workshop opined that if other children were “idealists”, this child is a “realist”.


I asked children to attempt leaves with simple patterns at first. And later when they actually began to love the leaves and the workshop, I asked them to attempt leaves with complex patterns. Observation and imagination are prerequisite for an artist. Children observed for ten to fifteen minutes, they developed inwardness and then they began to sketch.  Children observed how when light falls, the shadows of two or three plants superimpose to result in another pattern that we cannot guess at. As they drew and neared completion, when told that it fell short of the original, they would agree “Yes, I have not been able to draw well”. This eased my fear whether they would grow content with minimal achievement. I have exhibited these sketches in a number of schools. To impress upon them the importance of close observation, at the outset, I had directed them to draw “Leaves”, using only pencil. Later “Birds”, “Fishes”, and “Image and Shadow” were also covered. Projects such as these have helped the participants realise even more strongly that image and shadow, the ugly and the beautiful co-exist in life. The cynosure of these Drawing workshops was Yashodha, with nearly 200 sketches to her credit.

The project on “English Grammar” aimed to assist children whose medium of instruction is Kannada and help them see language as a tool and not as a burden. The purpose of the project on “The Art of Interviewing” has been to highlight the nuances and techniques of interviewing. An imaginative project like “Creation and Enactment of Stories” has motivated children to create a story and also enact the scenes. They were taught expression, voice modulation, gestures and other skills related to dramatics.
“Viewing the Residences of Mysore – Based Writers”, “Exploring Mysore”, “Places of Worship in and around Vontikoppal”, “Children present their Life Story” have groomed children to be both researchers and creative writers.

Resource Persons drawn from different fields have addressed the children in an idiom easily comprehensible to them. Centrality of perseverance, dedication, and reverence for elders, concentration, and tolerance is highlighted during the talks. Programmes are designed not merely to help children develop their intellect but also their inner resources, moral and spiritual, for they all give one a sense of values.

It is important for children to know the life and achievements of writers, artists and scientists. For instance, the project on “The Childhood of Great Scientists” in which the pioneering scientists are being featured has shown these children that these great scientists had also been children. A keen sense of curiosity coupled with incessant hard labour had helped the great writers, artists and scientists realise their dreams.

Projects are conceived to cover not only proverbs and riddles but also traditional narratives like folk songs, for the songs voice the joys and sorrows, the tragedies and triumphs of the folks besides reflecting the entire cultural milieu of a specific people.

Creating Awareness through Theatre Activities

Children’s Literary Clubs has been conducting programmes to celebrate the Centenary Year of writers, artists, thinkers, Institutions, Books, Concepts, and Special Days. To name a few, CLC has celebrated the 500 years of the publication of Cervantes’ Don Quixote/ 100 years of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan/ 50 years of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart,/ Mother’s Day, the Indian Institute of Science, Salvador Dali, The Bicentenary of John Keats, and the Birth Centenary of Bendre/Gorur/ Kuvempu/Aa.Na.Krishna Rao/Raja Ratnam etc by reading the original works and secondary sources (select only) and dramatizing their life and achievement besides viewing the paintings of Salvador Dali (available in printed books). Several Workshops had a conspicuous element of Theatre Arts components. Theatre Arts Workshops consisted of the following activities: Theatre Games, Listening to Audio Cassettes/ watching Video Cassettes/and live performances, Reading works/scripts, Singing Ranga Geethe, delineation of Nava Rasas, Lessons in Choreography, Scripting and Enactment of Short Plays/Skits. The Workshops made children familiar with vocabulary/terms used in  Theatre arts like ‘Miming’/ ‘Business’/ ‘Blocking’/ ‘Freeze’/ ‘Sub-text’/ ‘Property-in-charge/ ‘Improvisation’, besides Navarasas, which is kernel to a Theatre arts workshop.

Keats’ Bi-centenary year was celebrated by Children’s Literary Club. Poet Keats was presented through visual arts, drawings and dramatics by the young members (drawn from different social strata) of CLC, aged from 10 to 15years. Apart from the life of this universally acclaimed poet, children were taught at the workshop some titles of the poems and a few significant lines, and the characteristics of Keats’ sonnets. As many of the children were from the Kannada medium Schools, an effort too was made to teach English Grammar through selected lines from Keats’ poems. Another high point of the workshop was the attempt on the part of children to pictorially depict the details from Keats’ poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. This attempt enabled children to transfer the verbal medium into the visual. “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”, “Old Meg” and “There was a Naughty Boy” by Keats were also dramatized.

 “Bendre through Performing Arts”, a unique workshop was conducted on the occasion of “The Bendre Centenary Year” by CLC. Children were trained to recite Bendre’s poems as well as dramatize stanzas based on the poems of Bendre. A discussion of Bendre’s poems by the youngsters was also a part of the Play. Thus “Bendre” was adapted to different art media by the disciples of well known artists. Following the tradition of conducting meetings and workshops, the youngsters had requested Dr. Krishnappa, a well-known researcher and a great connoisseur of Bendre’s literary works to be the President on the occasion. The audience was from the cross-section of society.

Like The Grandfather - The Grandson, Ganapathi-Kubera, The Sun and the Wind, Love Lies Bleeding, the entire script of A Big ‘NO’ To Drug Addiction was in English, while the actors were the students of Kannada medium. Children staged Persephone, a short play based on Greek Mythology, to create an awareness of Greek culture through theatre. Ganapathi - Kubera, (the Kannada version)based on Indian Mythology was staged by HIV+ children before the paediatricians from South India. Though the play depicted just one episode in the life of Kubera, additional information about Kubera was made available to children. The objective of this was to enthuse children to read additional material and to drive home to children the relevance of the saying that “to know enough one most know more than enough”. The zeal and sincerity of the children was commendable. 

Workshop on Comparative Drama was planned in connection with the Centenary Celebrations of Kuvempu, the National Poet. An adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Parvathavani’s Hamlet were taken up for study and select scenes dramatized. 

I kept Kuvempu’s Rakthakshi and Parvathavani’s Kannada translation of Hamlet in view to enable the participants compare and contrast the creative works of Kuvempu and Shakespeare. Participants were the residents of the SC/ST Hostel. In the process, they were introduced to the whole gamut of problems involved in translation as well as adaptation dwelling at length on ‘thematic’ and ‘structural concerns’. Participants largely drawn from high schools were made to understand that there were other translators of Shakespeare. The texts were meticulously read and thoroughly discussed so that the participants realized that though Kuvempu stuck to the five-act division in Rakthakshi as obtained in the original, he made definite changes in the number of scenes in each Act. I believed in ‘giving more information than withholding’. It was not stopped at the comparison level; went several steps ahead in transmitting grammar, the navarasas, the three unities, and other dramatic techniques besides educating them on various imageries occurring in both Shakespeare and Kuvempu. The imageries included visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, and kinaesthetic besides those related to birds, insects, nature, music, disease, death and corruption. I never underestimated the participants’ capacity for comprehension. As part of the valedictory, artists from the local Amateur troupe enacted select scenes. The artists relied on total expression and body language without the usual theatre props like costume, make-up or setting. The idea behind this was to realise the possibility that theatrical experience could be replicated in the classroom without much expenditure. Another interesting feature of this workshop was in between the enactment of scenes from Rakthakshi, the young participants presented in a dramatic manner commentary on the scenes just enacted and on the scenes that followed. The Quiz conducted thereafter on the two plays established that the participants were extremely thorough with many aspects of the plays. They were superb in their quick-fire answers to the queries. 

          As part of the Centenary Celebrations of R.K. Narayan, CLC made young participants read a couple of RKN’s stories, besides enacting RKN’s The Blind Dog. Thus the twin intentions of the Director were realized. – Making children read RKN’s stories and make them dramatize at least one. CLC celebrated the Birth Centenary Year of Aa. Na. Krishna Rao, by making children read his select stories and dramatizing his Ondu Sanje. The workshop drove home to children the author’s point of view. Reading coupled with dramatization enhanced the joy of learning.

Whether it is Cheluru Chaurada Mastru/ Agni Pravesha / Kompeyalli Kattuthiruva Bangale/ Chitte Manusya by Iswar Chandra,  or Kaliya Hridaya by Gorur (was in connection with the Centenary Celebrations of Gorur), I was devoted to “minimalism”, in respect of props, makeup and other paraphernalia; the idea was to drive home the point that theatre should be yoked to serve the cause of education. I have time and again made it clear that it is possible to stage plays without too much dependence on the properties. In tune with the principles, in Kaliya Hridaya children made use of two wooden pieces to represent the abode (thresholds) of Kali and her neighbour Chikki. At the end, Kali’s memory is made a lasting one by hanging the tiny frocks she had given to Chikki to put on her baby. The Workshops helped children learn nuances relating to body language, costume designing, organizational skills/Theatre Management, voice modulation, dialogue delivery. Most of the time, the Dialogue delivery was flawless. Though some children were only part of the crowd in Cheluru Chaurada Mastru, they provided an excellent backdrop to the proceedings by contributing their one-line dialogue with the rest of the speeches. In Kompeyalli Kattuthiruva Bangale and Agni Pravesha the way children rendered the colloquial dialogue was not only musical but it was adequately brisk and authentic. The ‘timing’ in the dialogue was near perfect. The marginalized children were brought on stage in the attempt to provide them with a fair share of spotlight, which is usually hogged by the elite and the haves of the society. Children played their roles with unfaltering assurance. They carried the role with aplomb. Chitte Manusya belongs to the category of magic realism. This production was pressed into service to familiarise children with the names of dozens of butterflies and even to make them identify the butterflies as they flew around. Children resolved not to catch them but only to appreciate their beauty and variety. In the script, besides improvising the original story, a fund of information, like 25 crore Monarch Butterflies heading to Mekokone in Mexico during the winter season, was brought in. The use of English words in a Kannada script gave an opportunity to get close to the English language, which is the need of the hour. The interactive session that ensued after the staging, provided an opportunity for children to register their responses. At a time when many grown up students themselves are not keen to read either the new writers or the writers of the past, it was really heartening to note that these middle and high school students made an in-depth study of an author besides producing on the stage the dramatised version of his stories, opined spectators.

The Twenty day Theatre Workshop revolved around the concept of motherhood and was aptly titled Depiction of Motherhood and its Negation in Select English Poems through Theatre Arts. It was both educative and refreshingly different. The participants had the double joy of poetry and theatre. They were actively involved in every step of the workshop. Every day, I would name a sequence and children would enact it. Later one group of children would pick a sequence and the other group had to bring it on stage. Moreover, they were also encouraged to point out areas for improvement and the one who pointed them out had to demonstrate how the performance could be bettered. It was another attempt by The Children’s Literary Club to show that theatre does work.
The 12 Day Workshop in connection with the Birth Centenary Year of Simone de Beauvoir, the French Feminist thinker and the author of The Second Sex was conducted under the umbrella of CLC.  Feminist readings of select stories by well-known/lesser known authors helped teen age girls comprehend the position of woman as the other and man as the centre,which Simone de Beauvoir questioned. The method of connecting the global with the Indian and the regional writers and situations stimulated the minds of children who actively participated in the reading and discussions that ensued, and enactment of select portions of the stories they had read.
Children’s Literary Club conducted a 15 Day Workshop in connection with the 450th Birth Anniversary of William Shakespeare. What was done during the workshop is listed below

“Strengthening English Language Skills through English Theatre”, was conducted for “at risk and children in the margins”.  Besides dramatizing a couple of stanzas from Kuvempu’s “The Massacre of Delhi” (taken from his The Beginner’s Muse), Tolstoy’s The Sun and the Wind, was taken up for production. An exhibition of a few works by Tolstoy was arranged. The participants read a couple of other stories by Tolstoy like “The Wayfarers” and “The Horse and the Mare”, because of my firm conviction that Theatre activity ought to help participants develop their reading skills/competence. The script though based on a story by Tolstoy went beyond the same, facilitating the participants to know something about hurricane/ west wind/ Katrina/ zephyr. The script registered both temporal and spatial expansion. The audience were all praise for these children, (who despite facing difficult situations in life) presented the items with such conviction, clarity and confidence. To drive home to children that Theatre is a complete art, an exhibition of paintings was held in addition to giving them some lessons in music. Children were taught to design their own costume and create the ethos using the material around them. Children learnt to produce optimum result from the minimum available resources. That only dry leaves, broken twigs, a veil that served multipurpose, tender branches, a cap, an umbrella, symbolic attire and computer print outs were all that children used as stage props further drew an applause from the audience. That these children could learn some aspects of Basic English using theatre arts activity and its participatory ways won accolade from the audience, representing a wide strata of society.

My Experience with Master Degree and Ph. D Students

Looking into and recognizing the vast potential of Fine Arts and its capacity building qualities leading to sustainability, I conducted experiments to integrate Fine Arts in general and Theatre Arts in particular, for it comprises all the interactive processes that aid education. This kind of integration has helped nurture concentration, self-confidence, deep learning, imagination and communication skills of the disengaged and diverse stakeholders.
My maiden attempt to integrate creative strategy into teaching by designing and scripting, and later bringing it out in the form of a VCD, drove me again to do something different and distinct. Let me pause here a bit. The VCD is titled The Opening Scene of The Tempest”. Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a prescribed text for the Previous M.A. students of the Department of English of the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU).  My endeavour, here is to teach drama through theatre.
To celebrate the Birth Centenary Year of R.K. Narayan, along with my students, I arranged a visit to his residence in Yadavagiri, in Mysore. The students skirted around, they climbed the stairs, they sat on the floor on which R.K. Narayan had and wondered if R.K.N sat in that corner or in this room when he wrote The Guide or created the character of Margayya in The Financial Expert. Students forgot that they were X, Y, and Z. If one chose to become a Marco, the other was Raju from The Guide. Equally vibrant in their response were the women, when one girl student started reeling out the words spoken by Rosie in The Guide. Watching students play different roles was a wonderful dramatic experience.
It was all translation and Theatre arts to celebrate the 150th Birth Centenary Year of Rabindranath Tagore and commemorate the Death Centenary Year of Leo Tolstoy, O. Henry and Mark Twain. The students read Dr. N.M. Gayathri’s translation of select poems from Gitanjali and later enacted. Theatre activity enthused even the reluctant, coy, taciturn, obstinate students to come forward and be a horse, a chariot, God, and the poet himself as they enacted “I went a begging....”, a poem from Tagore’s Gitanjali. The students further discovered themselves as they transformed themselves into Miss Martha, the German artist and his assistant from one of O. Henry’s stories. They were now not just students, but actors and directors, audience and art critics, all moulded into one. I repeat; Theatre integration helped nurture concentration, self-confidence, deep learning, imagination and communication. When I wanted their feedback, one student said, “a great connector! I knew none here, though today is our third day in the class room. I feel we are now one family.” To others such Add on programmes were “beneficial”, “effective”, “entertaining”, “motivating”. A school teacher announced “I am waiting to go back to my students to try this out.” Yes! She was right. Not all children do their math and science well, but they may respond to Fine arts. Once their self-esteem level shoots up, they are all set to attempt difficult things for themselves. Is it not a fine strategy to reduce the dropout rate? The responses were soothing and reinvigorating.

To drive home to the students the strength of comparative method, I not only explained but also started enacting select passages/lines from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Agamemnon, and Macbeth are prescribed texts). Clytemnestra who after killing her husband Agamemnon emerges from the palace with the words, “I smote him, I smote him twice.....” is jubilant, ecstatic and with a sense of victory writ on every nerve. It is a completely crumbled, crushed Lady Macbeth that we get to see in the “Sleep-Walking Scene”, uttering a heart tearing cry “oh, oh, oh...”.

I have enacted these portions before a wide variety of KSOU students/  the new batch of counsellors identified to teach at the Study Centres of KSOU,/  the participants of the UGC Refresher Course and the students of many more Educational Institutions. I have two interesting stories to share. It was the Eve of the Ganesha Festival. I was on my way to bring the Idol home. A huge throng had gathered on either side of the road. A voice cried “Madam, Madam”. A Lady with excitement writ large on her visage rushed towards me. She said “Madam your enactment of the role of Lady Macbeth is unforgettable”.  My joy knew no bounds. What a wonderful boon it was from Lord Ganesha. Another story runs like this. When I was in USA, on Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship, my sister made a call, wanting to share her experience. It seems she met a student of mine in a village. When my sister casually mentioned that I am her sibling, the student’s instantaneous reaction was “You mean Lady Macbeth is your sister!” Since my sister was unaware of the ‘drama’ I played in the classroom, she was taken aback; that a student dared to call her sibling Lady Macbeth was indigestible for her. Her look of annoyance prompted the student to tell her that it was impossible for her to erase from memory my enactment of the “Sleep-Walking Scene from Macbeth”. Goaded by this she had started integrating Theatre in her classroom, and the result was astounding. She humbly said that I had awakened the sleeping spirit in her, and this integration helped her discover herself and also the hidden talent in her students and the range of their potential. These words were music to my ears. Do I need a better response than this?  

In this era of multiculturalism, comparative cultural studies play a vital part. Attempting to do this using the creative strategies is of utmost importance. My efforts to reinforce the similarities and contrast by enacting relevant portions were well received. “Only connect” said E.M. Forster in his Aspects of the Novel. Excerpt from Bharatha’s Natya Shastra is prescribed for the Ph. D students of KSOU. To let the students have a practical experience, I arranged a meeting with the Artists from the Theatre world, during their Course Work Contact Programme. (Please see Photo – “Research Scholars with Artists”). The creative component helped the participants to look at things in new ways. It facilitated discovery of new information and connections. 
Mukta Vidye, a play scripted and produced by me in 2004, (Mukta Vidye, which means Open Learning, was directed by H.S. Umesh) uses the activity of theatre to highlight the transformation from the then Institute of Correspondence Course to the present Karnataka State Open University. Mukta Vidye, the play, talks about the strengths of Open Distance Learning system and innovative teaching methods.  Ratna is a young enthusiast whose appetite for knowledge knows no limits especially as her parents are the beneficiaries of the ODL system of Education. She is enthused to support many more who too wish to be the beneficiaries of this system. The role of the mother brings out the complexity of a middle class woman who tries to enlarge her field of activity outgrowing the bounds imposed on her, consequent to the circumstances of her milieu. The Play has seen several shows. The audio version (directed by me) was also aired by the Gyan Vani, the FM Channel of KSOU.  

Kurudu Nayee (“The Blind Dog”--- A Short story by R.K. Narayan) was produced and directed by me. This was staged in connection with the Birth Centenary Celebrations of R.K. Narayan). Concept Designing/ Script Writing/Production/ Direction of Dreams and Dreamers, Exploitation and Towards Empowerment and In Search of Shakespeare and Kuvempu ( This was directed by H.S.Umesh) were also my contribution to Amateur Theatre. Yet anotherPlay scripted and produced by me is Stree Shakti (Self Help Group).  Stree Shakti is an effort to visually present the functioning of rural Self-Help Groups through narration and dramatization. The play aims to present Self-Help Groups as agents of change bringing about far reaching economic and social transformation in rural areas. Stree Shakti was first presented before a batch of students, from Iowa University, USA, who were in Mysore to do a course on Gender Studies.

All experience is an arch wherethro’ 
Gleams that untravell’d world

Alfred Tennyson
Active learning brings in greater transformation than passive instruction. Paulo Friere suggests in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “the teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.” (Freire, Paulo. (1993). Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum Publishing, P. 80) Creative strategies have a unique role to play in the richly diverse Indian Classrooms. Theatre in Education is both demanding and rewarding, for it makes both schools and theatres sites for community building and social transformation.
Don’t Societies become disabled, if we teachers fail to adopt new strategies?

Dr. R. Purnima with Children across the State