Poetry is the first thing we humans learn — be it lullabies as babies or nursery rhymes as children. Further, our grandparents initiate us into it by reading out age-old poetries to us. Still one hardly finds children reading poetry books these days; it seems to be restricted to textbooks only.
And that’s what prompted educationist Devyani Mungali to launch her first Hindi poetry book — Kavitaon Ka Jaadui Pitara in the city on Friday. The book contains 24 of her poems but Mungali has written more than 150 poems. The director and founder of Sanskriti School, also launched a YouTube channel for children at the event.
We caught up with Mungali before the official launch of the book by Dr Kiran Bedi and couldn’t miss her warm smile and humble nature while greeting every guest at the event. Their respect for her and her work was also visible.
“There isn’t much contemporary literature for children on Indian themes, which they can relate and connect to, which could be entertaining and at the same time, educating. That made me write the book,” says Mungali, who is also a teacher, dancer and writer.
She adds that there are many places across the country where the book might not be accessible or people might not be able to afford it and that’s the reason they decided to also launch the YouTube channel — Anokha Pitara, which is an extension of the book. “Also, there are different kinds of learners, many children like to learn from the content available on videos. They would be able to hear the poems and learn from the channel. The reach will be much more than the book,” she says.
But a YouTube channel is an ongoing process, so how regularly are they going to add content to the channel? “That’s why we call it Anokha Pitara. Ultimately, I don’t want to restrict it to just poetry, there are going to be short stories that I have written, maybe children in the school would start a poetry club, which is Dr Bedi’s idea. It will be a combined effort gradually,” Mungali points out.
She says that she has been writing poetry for many years as a passion but it was when her children saw her work and motivated her to publish the book that it actually happened. “I would have been happy with just the book but they belong to the modern generation so they suggested the YouTube channel. It was a different experience recording the poems,” says, adding, “I am now gradually involving my colleagues from school and students to record their poems.”
Mungali feels poetry has a greater recall value than prose. “So much can be taught through poetry. I feel teachers are very lucky. They must use it to teach science, maths or any other subject and not restrict it to just music or language. Each one of us remembers the poetry we had learnt during childhood,” she says.
But she admits that poetry has lost its importance in our lives and that’s the reason she has used contemporary themes. “The words that I have used are everyday words and for little difficult words, we have given the English meaning. The primary object is to attract children’s attention and once we do that, serve them content which caters to them,” Mungali says.
The language used by children also keeps changing and Mungali says that she learns a lot from her grandchildren. “I also learn a lot by observing and listening to the children of my school. Sometimes I see something on the notice board, read an article or see a photo on the wall. One day, I was coming from our Wagholi campus and saw an elephant on TV. I have written a poem on that,” she says adding, “There is a poem in the book called Jungle Main Bahubali as children relate to the film and the character.”
She adds that she gets most of her inspiration from children, who are also her biggest critics. “When they pass it, it will be my first step to success. Children do not have any filters. If they do not like something, they will tell you and if they like something, they will accept it,” Mungali says.
Why did an English teacher decided to write a book on Hindi poetry? “A lot of people have asked me the same thing. I believe there are many places where people still do not understand English. Hindi reaches everywhere. Having said that, when I started writing, I had not thought about the commercial aspect as I thought it will be restricted to the school children and I will read out to them. But they enjoyed the poems and asked me to print the book. It was then that I thought about it. I hope more people will like it,” says Mungali who has been inspired by well-known poets like Sumitranandan Pant, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Robert Frost among others.