The A.V. room felt particularly cosy that Wednesday afternoon. Students sat all curled and comfortable in their chairs and the lingering chill from the drizzle outside gave the room a very story-time like atmosphere. When Aparna Vinod walked in, her flowing clothes creating an aura of soft pinkish-purple approachability, we sensed that this part inaugural of Metonym (An Inter-class Literary festival organised by the Dept. of English), part first Causerie (A series of informal talks conducted fortnightly by the Dept. of English) of the semester, would be a friendly one.
An ex-student of the college, Aparna is the founder of Craft Caravan (an attempt to introduce craft into children’s education.) She organises workshops and city trails, journeying (in her own words) towards colour and creativity.
That afternoon however, she didn’t begin by introducing her work, but by talking about the power of boredom. My parents have often spoken about boredom, dismissing my complains about not having a TV at home with gyaan about how it builds character. But Aparna wasn’t talking about character, she was talking about imagination and craft in particular. The use of one’s hands, the ability to create something new out of something old and thrown away, it was these skills that she focused on.
Aparna went on to clarify some basic facts about the brain and individual learning preferences. Projecting an image of the Rubin Vase, she instructed all the “lefties” present to copy the right half of the image and all the “righties” to copy the left half, following which we were asked to trace the lines over and over, naming parts of the face as we did so.
Prof. Arul Mani dutifully chanted “eyes, nose, mouth, chin” in his deep, booming voice, sending everyone into fits of laughter, while Prof. Etienne began looking around at the students beside him and compared his drawing with theirs.
Making us then complete the image, Aparna demonstrated how each half of the brain is responsible for different types of processing as the first exercise was based on our knowledge of facial features while the second involved visual skills as we attempted to create a symmetrical copy of the first face.
The little activity ended with Aparna, laughing at the “cheap thrills” she got from making her old professors draw.
It was only after this that Aparna introduced Craft Caravan and the ‘Seeking Nila’ project. The image on her PPT slide was that of a map now. A map of Kerala, depicting not borders and capitals but little drawings that symbolised various aspects of culture. She took us through her eight day journey with the kids, explaining the curriculum they had designed by describing what they learnt each day. Returning to Bangalore city then, she spoke about their Little Trails project of historical tours.
It occurred to me only then that though I had done so called heritage walks in cities like Hampi and Srinagar, I had never done one in the very city I lived in!
Concluding her talk, Aparna then opened the discussion for questions, her long earrings bobbing just above her shoulder as she clasped her fingers together with a seemingly nervous excitement. Her presentation had clearly made students feel the need to be schoolkids again as the first few questions were all to do with what the age limit was for Craft Caravan workshops and whether or not she took interns with her on city tours and so on.
One young man in the audience then made a very uncle comment, assuring her that this was a “very good thing” she was doing, that she shouldn’t worry because he and his friends would help her make it a success! Barely noticing this, Prof. Cheriyan deftly shifted the conversation to Aparna’s days in college and the session came to close with everyone laughing as she recalled her time as a student in Prof. Arul Mani’s classes.
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