Categories
Young Persons' Section

Sara’s Selections, September 2020

Woohoo Folks!

We are on our fourth edition of Sara’s Selections. Ms Sara has again brought us a wealth of young writers, writing from all over the world on multiple issues. Sometimes it is amazing to see how they think… and also give us a fresh perspective… And now let me hand over the collection to Ms Sara.

Poetry

Hi there friends, Sara here. Fifteen year old Varisha Rehman from Delhi, giving us the just the right dose of it in this message to a girl.

This is for the girl

This is for the girl
Who only wanted to be loved,
Shone like a pearl
And moved like a dove.

This is for the girl
Who was like a queen,
She ruled her world with everything.

This is for the girl
Who wrote words no one heard,
A pen was her sword
A paper was her shield.

Here is a message to this girl
Life has a funny way to teach us,
Live your life without a grudge
Live the life, you love.
Just be yourself. Because…
Life is too short to be someone else.

Nine-year-old Diya Sheth from Ahmedabad brings us some furry love in this adorable poem.

My Pet

One day I thought how pets love us a lot,
So I told my parents to bring me a dog.

Father said we can bring two birds,
Mommy said we can bring a turtle.

But still I argued for a dog,
My parents refused so I cried a lot.

On my 10th birthday my parents told me,
This time you will get a gift,
You wanted from the age of three.

I wondered what it will be. I was so excited for it,
My father gave a bow,
My mother brought a puppy.

I thanked my mother and father,
The dog’s name was Jimmy.

Now I play with him every day,
He protects me in every way.
We go on walk everyday,
I still thank my parents for my 10th birthday.

Nine-year-old Rohan Santhosh from Bangalore shares this adorable poem for his best friend.

My Best Friend

You are smart and kind

You can almost read my mind

You’re the first to notice when I’m blue

You have a 6th sense, it’s true.

You’re so intelligent and strong

You always tell me when I’m wrong.

Always alert and aware

When I need you, you are there.

I still remember the day at school,

So scared of the teachers looks,

I almost dropped all my books.

You noticed the slightest frown

You picked me up when I was down.

When I’m confused you help me decide,

Thanks for being by my side.

I always wished I had a brother,

But now I see, you are one…

Just from another mother!

Stories

Eight-year-old Navoneer Bhattacharyya from Kolkata writes of the most amazing conversation with Lord Ganesha.

When Lord Ganesha cancelled his birthday party…

And we were off to bed. But neither I nor my elder brother could sleep as we were a  bit upset. Next day was Ganesh Chaturthi, the celebration of the elephant headed god’s rebirth, but due to COVID we could not go for  pandal ( temporary structures set up to jubilate the festive occasion) hopping.

Nearly half-an-hour had passed when we heard a mouse squeak. We looked  out and to our greatest surprise, what did we see there?

Ganesha & mouse

Lord Ganesha on his mouse was standing right outside our house!

“Lord Ganesha,” squeaked the mouse, “You said some kids are sad in this  house so we have come here!”

“Yes you are right, we have come to meet them.”

My elder brother suggested that we should invite them to come in. So I  opened the door and said humbly, “Oh Lord Ganesha, we would be honoured if  you could step in our house and spend some time with us.”

modak
Laddu

He agreed and came in. We offered them some of his favourite sweets, modak and laddu. After having that he asked us, “Now tell me why all of you are so sad?”

I said,”Lord Ganesha, the Coronavirus is like the demon, Mahishashura. It is spreading  death and sadness all over the world.”

“See here in Mumbai too, we cannot go for pandal hopping on our favourite festival, Ganesh Chaturthi.” said my elder brother.

Again I said, “Dear Lord, we all are terrified. Our life has come to standstill, we cannot have guests in our house. We cannot go anywhere; we cannot play with our friends; we cannot even go to school.”

Lord Ganesha listened to us very attentively and then he nodded his head and said, “My dear friends, I can understand your pain. But tell me one thing — is there no light of hope? I know doctors, scientists and lot of others are working day and night to protect the human race from this killer. But to defeat this deadly virus is not so easy. We Gods are also supporting these great warriors and patiently waiting for something positive to come out.”

He paused, took a deep breath and then again he said, “Us Gods are cancelling the celebration of our birthdays on earth just to protect mankind. Please, try to understand. If you want to overcome this hardship and again happily want to celebrate my birthday in future, then this year you need to sacrifice your festival enjoyment and be a little patient till my next birthday comes.”

I said, “Lord Ganesha, I know how it feels when birthday celebrations are  cancelled as mine got cancelled this year too. But yes, you are right. We should be patient.”

Lord Ganesha smiled and said, “Hope you understood that it is time for Gods and humans to team up against the deadly virus and throw it out. Now all of you give me a big smile and a big hug.”

Then he left with his carrier and we bid them goodbye.

We all found that suddenly our sadness had gone and our minds had become light.

We looked into the sky and said, “Thank you Lord Ganesha. We love you a lot. Happy Birthday.”

This haunting piece by Aashvi Rajani from Ahmedabad is a beautiful example of what thirteen-year-olds can do. While most of us are fussing over missing our birthdayday parties and gifts, here is a story to showcase reality of a different kind.

An Unforgettable Birthday

Raheema’s typical day would begin with mopping their home in Kabul and end with her burying herself under heaps of assignments. But today was not a regular day, Raheema Jan would be thirteen today. It was a significant day. Under no circumstances could her parents afford an enormous celebration, but  Raheema didn’t mind this, as long as Baba would be with her. Baba would be  her shadow, against all odds.

“Are you ready Raheema Jan?” Baba questioned in a silvery tone, standing beside the flimsy door.

“In a minute!” She replied as she sprinted to pick up her book.

Raheema had picked up the skill of reading since she was five, yet hearing her father narrate a story was one of the most congenial things to her. He cleared  his throat dramatically, and began, “I became…”

Baba’s eloquent storytelling came to a halt when Raheema spotted a figure hurtling towards them.

“What happened?” Baba’s hazel eyes narrowed as he saw Khalil gasping for breath.

“They are looking for you Agha, it’s urgent.”

His eyes laid on Raheema, she flashed a priceless smile that made him feel sorry for her. He crouched down and asked in a whisper, “Shall I go?”

She reluctantly nodded.

When Baba departed, Raheema locked herself in the washroom and  unwillingly broke into sobs. Soon she was shuddering. Mâmâm interrupted her  by banging the door. “Come out, Mariam is here to wish you!”

Carefully, she wiped her tears and prepared to be just the buoyant girl she was
expected to be.
“Happy Birthday!” Mariam beamed. Enthusiastically, she dragged Raheema out and began babbling. Baba kept crawling back to Raheema’s mind, despite  her attempts to pay attention. Were they harassing him?

Mâmâm barged in to inform Raheema that she had to pay a visit to Akmal Agha’s mansion, and Raheema should return home. Obediently, the girl  nodded.

“What’s going on Raheema? Is everything okay?” Mariam questioned. Initially, Raheema decided against revealing anything, but it was too much for her. And so, she confessed it all. She narrated how Baba was responsible for Akmal  Agha’s residence, how the gangsters had an eye on it, how Baba had refused  to sacrifice his integrity for them, how they had been receiving appalling  threats.

Mariam gently embraced Raheema, who was now weeping. “Don’t—”

The air shattered and they heard a roaring crack, then, absolute stillness. Raheema darted to the street like a whirlwind, oblivion to all the eyes gaping at her. She was terrified to the thought of what happened. No, Baba wouldn’t  leave her. She was his Shāhdaught, his princess.

What she saw at the end of the street was something she will never forget.  Baba on his knees, soil smeared on his kameez. Alive. His hands were folded, tears rolling down his cheeks. A man in front flashed a lopsided grin and said, “You are fortunate because I will let you go this time.” His hoarse voice sounded like a melody to Raheema at the time. To her surprise, she was weeping as Baba dashed towards her.

Never did Baba’s embrace console her more. That was when she found herself detached from everyone but her Pādīshāh, Baba.

How can you play a good host to wild animals in your house? What a scenario to think of! Here is a very unique and empathetic story by nine-year-old Eric Johan from Chennai. Welcome to his world of creativity!

My Wild Home

One fine morning, I woke up and saw my bedroom full of wild animals.

I was  surprised on seeing all the animals talking. A lion stood before me and  said, “Do you have any animals to eat?”

I replied, “I don’t have any.” I saw the  lion roared in great hunger and went away.

Then a big crocodile of twenty feet length came near me and asked, “Do you have any  meat to eat?” I replied saying, “No.” Then the big crocodile went away.

Next a tall giraffe looked at me and asked, “Do you have any grass to eat?”

I answered, “Yes, you can find grass behind my house, in the garden.” The  giraffe and his friends went joyfully to have the grass in my garden, but the lion and his friends were sad.

Suddenly my dad rushed into the room with some delicious breakfast. It had  my  favourite roasted chicken. The lion and his friends saw it and asked me,  “How many plates of meat do you have?”

I said, “ We have twelve plates”.

The lion asked, “Can I have nine of them?” I said, “Yes, of course, you can.”

Finally, the lion and his friends enjoyed the meat and went away happily. It was the most amazing morning ever.

Essays

Ten year old Shashwathi V from Bangalore would like us to think beyond one day and beyond a few popular names to understand better the meaning of independence.

Here is a much needed write up on the courageous queen and freedom fighter from Karnataka, Kittur Rani Chennamma.

Shashwathi V is a student of CMS NPR, Bangalore.

Kittur Rani Chennamma: Remembering one of the first female freedom fighters

On 15th August, our 74th Independence Day, my school asked us students to  dress up as freedom fighters. I dressed up like “Kittur Rani Chennamma” for  my class celebration online.

She is one of our greatest freedom fighters but to my surprise some of my  friends did not know about her. So I thought I should write about her for my  friends who do not know about her.

Kittur Rani Chennamma was born on 23 October 1778, in Kakati, a small  village in the present Belagavi District of Karnataka, India. She learnt to ride  horses, sword fighting and archery in her childhood. At the age of fourteen, she got  married to Raja Mallasarja. She became the queen of Kittur. After her husband  and only son died, she took over the kingdom and adopted a son but the  British refused to accept her son.

The British tried to take over her kingdom thinking she would easily give up but  she fought them in a war in which she won. The British, angered by the defeat,  fought more wars in which despite her bravery she lost and was put in jail  where she died.

Like Jhansi Rani, who came several years later, she made a mark on the  country for her courage.

She was one of the first female freedom fighters to resist British colonization.  She is a national heroine, well known in Karnataka and a symbol of the  independence movement in India.

Here is one of the inspiring lines she said in response to the British demanding high-taxes, that people remember her best by:

Why should I pay you tax (Nimageke kodabeku kappa)? Are you my brother, sister, relative or a friend?”


 
 

This moving piece by eleven-year-old Mehr Kapoor from Kolkata is for everyone who ever left behind their house, and a piece of their life in it. How there is an urge to capture every little moment spent there!

Walk down the memory lane

We walked through the garden one last time, knowing we’d never return to  this house again. My family and I were moving to a better house this very day and while we took a stroll for the last time in this beautiful garden it brought up a lot of emotions.

I thought about the day I was running around the garden playing games with  my friends, knowing I would never be able to do that again. I think the most difficult part of moving is giving up the garden because almost everything in a  house could be packed up however a garden is the one thing that one cannot take with them. I looked at the cherry plant which I had grown on my own. I remember I was very proud that day because it was the first time I had ever planted something on my own. As I walked away, I thought about whether the next family that would stay here would even want a garden? Maybe they will build something in place of that, the thought disheartened me. I moved away from the garden and went inside the house.

I went inside and to my room for the very last time. I tried to absorb everything  around me because I knew I would never see it again. 

I went around every room in the house this way, for the last time.

Whatever the new family would change about this house, I shall never forget it and the eleven special years I spent in this house will be memories that I will  cherish forever.

We live in a world flooded with endless images, spending so much time and effort spent in clicking, editing and publishing them. But is this how it always was and is this how it should be? Ten year old Hridi Talati from Vadodara raises and answers some of these important questions in her wonderful essay.

Photographs are Memories on Paper

And click! 5 years ago your mother just clicked a memorable photo of you in the summer. Now you are skimming across your mother’s pictures when a bright picture catches your eye, you click on it and go down a little trip in your  memory lane and flashback to what happened 5 summers ago…

Clicking a photograph means that you want to preserve a moment till the end of time, and when you look at that old photograph again you feel exactly the way you did that day.

Each picture holds a powerful feeling, whether it is sadness or happiness, anger or relaxation, nostalgia or forgetfulness. A picture doesn’t have to be  perfect to be memorable, it just has to be heart-felt.

I am personally not a fan of editing a picture to make it look like it is done by a  professional. Why would you want to spoil a perfectly good and true photograph by adding false make- overs to it? It makes the photograph look a  little too overdone, unless, of course, it needs the editing to make it look  better.

A good memory is the most popular kind of picture because seeing it makes  you feel pleased and happy. And so ,“When you think good thoughts, they will  shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”- Roald Dahl.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Interview

How the young and Ms Sara battled COVID

A brief journey into the world of founder Nidhi Mishra and co-founder, Archana Mohan.

Nidhi Mishra(Left)&Archana Mohan(right)

What is the smell of a book? Bookosmia. 

Bookosmia is also a publishing house that aims to promote reading among children, curates writing from youngsters and brings out books for youngsters in both hard and soft copy as well as audio books in varied languages. It was conceived by Nidhi Mishra who pivoted to children’s publishing from a 10-year banking career, post IIM, in 2017. After a fast paced career, she quit as Vice-President of HSBC (Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation) to create something from scratch in a space she was passionate about, making better use of her time and skills. Nidhi teamed up with Archana Mohan two years ago.  Mohan had worked as  a  journalist, corporate blogger and editor working with names like Business Standard, Woman’s Era, Deccan Herald, Chicken Soup for the Soul and Luxury Escapes Magazine.  She won the Commonwealth Short Story contest’s ‘Highly Commended Story’ award in 2009. 

In this exclusive, Mishra, founder and CEO of Bookosmia, and  Mohan, co-founder and head of content, tell us about their journey. 

When and how did Bookosmia come about? 

NM*: Bookosmia was launched in 2017 as a disruptive children’s content company, hoping to make kids fall in love with reading, writing and everything else around stories. While an already cluttered space in India, children’s  content was either always educative, western or inappropriate. No one wanted kids to just enjoy a good story without necessarily helping them in academics or teaching moral values. We wanted to change that. 

But what kind of stories do kids really like? What better way than to ask them directly. Hence our key premise that kids are perfectly capable and deserving, of telling their own stories, is the biggest differentiator in the market. 

What does Bookosmia do?

NM: Bookosmia is India’s premier writing platform for kids, publishing over 100 original digital stories a month with young writers from lesser known Indian districts like Kiccha, to the bustling metros, from Munich to New Jersey. Bookosmia recently launched its brand persona— a 10 year- old athlete Sara, fondly hailed as “our new best friend” by The Hindu recently. Sara has India’s premier and largest repository of stories for kids, by kids. Additionally she brings a whole host of fun and age appropriate content to kids through digital stories, video stories, audio stories and lots of fun activities for kids for perfect engagement for kids. That is what we offer from a product perspective.

However, we are onto a larger mission– to create a new ‘category’ of kids content, which strongly hinges on a “stories for kids, by kids” philosophy. Children lead their lives with a constant inflow of inputs. Parents, schools, teachers rarely pause to ask them for their original output. How are they feeling?

At Bookosmia, we are different from other content companies and publishers because we have a two-way conversation with our audience. Yes, we have digital  and video stories to engage children meaningfully. But we also have the intent to ask them and publish how they are feeling in the lockdown, during a world cup final, after listening to our science stories. We feel making young kids feel valued and heard will help in the following ways:1) They will be able to process their emotions and launch their imagination better, instead of hopping from one activity to another. For example, we love the stories 6-year-olds write to us where animals feel lonely, are behaving badly only because they are looking for a best friend. 2) It will help them boost their self-confidence. A child who feels empowered today will grow up to be a more engaged citizen tomorrow. For example, we have older kids writing to us on issues of racism, taboo around periods, refugee situations and more.  3) It will help children feel more positive, hopeful and raise awareness by evaluating what they can be grateful for. For example, our “Gratitude during Covid” series was a perfect example where even little kids sent us entries recognizing there is a lot to be thankful for, even in these difficult times.

How did you conceive Sarachats?

AM*: At Bookosmia, we take our ‘by kids, for kids’ mantra a little too seriously! This is a company where children call the shots. Our young friends decide the topics they will write on for the month, activities and new features to be added. So, the obvious thought was why not have a young character representing us in all our interactions as a brand? That was when Sara was born.  

Ms Sara

Sara isn’t a genius, nor does she possess magical powers. She is a curious and happy go lucky kid and every child will identify a bit of themselves in her. With her young friends from across the globe, Sara reads stories by kids, she listens to story tellers, she tells stories to little ones, she does fun activities and she even chats to cool older people to know more about their lives.

To us, Sara is a heart child. She has not one but many mothers! She was designed by the brilliant Parvati Pillai, ex design head of Chumbak. Our chief visual designer Aayushi Yadav has adapted the design fabulously and brought in her trademark humour, enriching Sara’s personality. As for how Sara talks, behaves and the capers she gets into, blame that all on the rest of us! 

In a very short span of time, Sara has made quite an impression on our young followers. Everyday, Sara’s inbox is flooded with messages by her friends across the world who love to share their thoughts and wait to hear back from her. For them and for us, Sara has become an inseparable part of our lives. 

How many children have responded to Sara chats? 

AM: We publish over 100 young writers a month, so the answer is, quite a few! But it’s not just about publishing. Some of our young writers are from lesser privileged backgrounds, so the whole concept of expressing themselves in a medium like the short story, is an alien experience to them. But guess who instantly connects with them and draws them out of their shell– their friend Sara.  

Similarly, some of our young writers have great ideas but lack proficiency in English and it is Sara who writes to them regularly encouraging them to put their thoughts into words without being boggled by vocabulary. We believe that every child has a story to tell and our global platform through a much-loved ambassador like Sara gives children an opportunity to express themselves and feel heard in a safe and non-judgemental space. From writing about their dreams, their family to topics like periods, disability, grief to bullying, our young writers are unafraid to write about subjects that move them. To say their refreshing optimism and understanding of the world stuns us, would be an understatement. 

What made you think of the icon of Sara? 

AM: Our girl Sara, is a stereotype buster. She is the answer to generalisations like “all girls like pink” and “sport is for boys”. Sure, she is notorious for breaking a windowpane or two with her football, but she is no different from any other girl in the world.  She represents every child who gets picked on for ‘being different’, for daring to think out of the box and for questioning norms that don’t make sense to them. Does loving sport instead of playing house make her any lesser of a girl? Absolutely not. And that’s the message Sara brings to every child of the world. You are you. Don’t feel pressurised to change just because you don’t fit into someone else’s mould. 

Is this a voluntary organization? 

NM: No, Bookosmia is a for profit private limited company.

Tell us how Ms Sara serviced children across borders through the trying times of COVID.

AM : Like we always say, it is the kids who drive this company and so it should come as no surprise that our much lauded ‘Gratitude During Covid’ series was conceived out of children’s conversations with Sara where they spoke about how their lives had changed post Covid. While most adults chose to binge watch during the lockdown, children from far flung corners of the country and even abroad, took up on our call to write essays, poems and short stories about ‘gratitude’, exhibiting an incredible amount of maturity in handling an unprecedented situation. 

And what delightful takes they had! While the younger ones were thankful for the cleaner air, food on the table and more time with their families, the teenagers wrote about how they had become conscious of their privilege, developed empathy for their domestic help and learnt to go ‘within’. 

As a company, we felt validated. Clearly, by engaging with them meaningfully, we had been able to make children feel valued. 

Are you still into bringing out books online? Or has it suffered from the pandemic too? Has the pandemic affected Bookosmia?

NM: Yes, the pandemic has affected Bookosmia, but only for the better. We have doubled our audience every month and it only speaks of the strong need that exists for safe, meaningful yet fun screen time for kids .We like to think of ourselves as the intersection of a parent’s need ( to keep their child meaningfully engaged) and a child’s want (to find relatable content).

We publish 4 free digital stories, written by kids, on our website everyday. Yes, we are releasing fewer online paid ebooks but that is mainly because our focus right now, through these tough times, is to make our free content available to as many kids as possible and build a community.

What are your future plans for both Bookosmia and Ms Sara? 

NM: In question two, I touched upon our intent to create a new “category” of kids content. A few years back I used to be very judgemental of the new generation of teens. Always on social media, gunning for more likes and comments, with dwindling attention spans and enormous need for approval. Over the years, I have realized the problem was not in that generation but in the world we have created for them. Yes, they are active on Facebook and Instagram and snapchat, but which other platforms value them. We have to give these young minds a platform where they feel safe speaking up, sharing their views and stories, not afraid of being dismissed with a ‘too young’ tag. 

Yes we have some excellent writers who share their stories with us. And it can be expected that children can create content(stories/ essays/ poems) that other kids will like more. Purely because it is first hand and organic. But we are not looking to churn out great authors, we are looking to make young voices feel valued.

Sara has found great relatability with children. She looks, talks and thinks like them. They have a lot less inhibition in writing to her than they would to a publishing house. We want Sara to take these stories from kids, far and wide across the globe and not be tied down to a particular country. Like any other kid, Sara is also upto a lot of things. Good at some, like sports and curious about others like Science, Art or Nature. So you will see Sara introducing kids to a whole range of topics and not limit herself to reading and writing. Also conscious that there is nothing more joyful than holding your beloved characters in your hand, Sara may soon be seen in a physical format.

*NM : Nidhi Mishra, Founder and CEO of Bookosmia. 

*AM : Archana Mohan, Co-Founder and Head of Content, Bookosmia. 

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL.