October 17, 2015 : The Lightroom Bookstore on a fine sunny Saturday morning, was the launch pad for GAIT’s wonderful book My Space My Body . My Space My Body is the first of many in the series of books intended to help children look around them and understand how to live in greater harmony with all around them.The book explores the idea of personal space and the vibrant world of movement around us, through the eyes of the very loveable characters Takka and Dimi.
Scheduled for 11.a.m, eager little participants walked in with their mothers and one devoted father. The Lightroom Bookstore soon began to look brighter still with the sounds of laughter and kids playing on the floor.
The store was soon full, and My Body My Space’s writer Roopa Pai walked in to get the event started. Full of positivity and energy, everyone was eager to listen to her. Preeti Sunderajan, the CEO at GAIT gave a short introduction about the company and Roopa Pai. She said that GAIT helped explore movement through dance and theater. Though the focus was not on dance per se, the idea was to use the essence of the form to help children express through their body as a medium.
The floor was then given to Roopa. She started off by saying that this book was an altogether new assignment for her in more ways than one. She was briefed that the book was intended for three to four-year-olds, a new audience compared to the eight to twelve-year-olds she was used to writing for. She then had to understand what exactly it was that GAIT was trying to do – express by use of the body. We are all equipped to use our bodies ably as infants, but as we grow and learn the use of words our body expression diminishes she noted.
It is important to learn to use words, but certainly not at the cost of the body as a tool of expression, she opined. Unfortunately, she continued, as we grow we come against body image issues. We get inhibited and almost entirely stop using our body to express ourselves. Words can never be a substitute for the body and the continued disuse of the body to express results in a mind –body disconnect. As a result we also stop empathizing; being unable to understand others body language signals.
The other challenge for Roopa was to write a story within 500 words. Verbosity comes easy to writers and to contain a story with few brushstrokes was tough, she noted. Her collaboration with GAIT, who themselves were foraying into publication for the first time was an adventure by itself, a joint learning curve. It took quite a few iterations to come up with what was best for the young readers.
Turning her entire attention to her young audience she introduced Takka and Dimi to them. The first story where the characters learn about personal space was read to them, accompanied by very animated gestures of the author which the children loved.
Here’s a short video of Roopa reading from My Space My Body:
At the end of the first story, Preeti got the kids up and ready to do an activity to understand personal space. She got the children to blow a body fitting imaginary bubble. The children were encouraged to use different body parts to paint the bubble. Squiggling tongues, palms, little feet, and bottoms were wriggled and jiggled about to get the job done.
A video of the activity
Some allegations of bubble popping and unimaginable body twisting later, the children moved to imagine and make shapes. Outstretched legs and hands reached out to each other to make circles, squares, and triangles.
Preethi bent at the waist and hung her hands down and asked the children to guess who she was. “A doll”, shouted one, “ No, a plant”, said another. One little lightbulb got it right when she said ”lamp!”. The children went on to become tables, bookshelves, open and shut books, steps and other objects they spotted in the store. Parents and children partnered to become a ball in the bag. Little Zoya and her equally dexterous mom made for a great ball in bag and bag in ball combo.
Happy and exhausted the children settled in, to listen to the story about Takka and Dimi’s visit to the Chengalur zoo. Roopa was now the elephant with it’s ‘ready made straw’, then she was the yawning wide mouthed hippo. Lightroom’s floor soon saw little snakes squiggling away from and back to their moms. A hippo mouth was good space to tuck many a Kurkure packet countered one listener.
Much laughter and many discussions later My Space My Body was well and firmly launched into the firmament to land in different bookshelves. The children picked their own copies of My Body My Space as well as the other booky delights at Lightroom.
Archana Sreenivasan, the illustrator of My Body My Space’s dropped in. Many children then got their copies autographed by Roopa and her.
Little people listening to stories, expressing, imagining, ideating, using their bodies to express, questioning the author and appreciating the artwork in a children’s bookstore – could anyone ask for more?
Photo and video credits: Neha Sahajwani
My Space My Body is available at The Lightroom Bookstore