“Terrorists are not born; they are made by a society which is cruel, callous and apathetic.” These words spoken by 14 year old Arijit of St. Edmund’s School, Shillong were one of my most valuable take-aways from this beautiful city aptly called the Scotland of the East for its lakes, waterfalls, hills and dales.
I had been invited to kick start a ‘Creative Workshop Festival’ organized by ‘The Bookmark Sahaki’, the premier bookshop of Shillong. (Did I say a bookshop? It was more like an experience – a bibliophile’s delight!) I conducted ‘Writers’ Block’ – the ‘Young Writers Workshop’. The venue was the Don Bosco Youth Centre in Laitumkhrah, the academic hub of Shillong.
As I walked in on the morning of 8th May I was greeted with attractive banners, standees and flexes, the unbridled enthusiasm of the organizers and the reticence of the kids who were not quite sure what to expect. As I saw my mug staring back from the flexes the narcissist in me got alive and kicking. Guys and gals from 12 to 17 participated in the two workshops which aimed at kindling in the participants an interest in the art and craft of creative writing.
The students were from different schools and different backgrounds. The one thing common in them was the hunger to explore the magical world of words.
I began by giving a brief introduction on the elements of a good story and tips on how to go about writing it. I followed this up with a story written by me which was later analyzed. Next was a creative writing exercise by the participants as a part of which they were divided into groups of 4-5 each and given three topics to write.
The response of the youngsters to my stories was electric. The session, being interactive, raised quite a few questions, smiles, chuckles and laughs. But the highlight of the workshop was the story writing and presentation by the youngsters. Mystery, myth, magic realism, fantasy and dollops of humor made every story a riveting one. What added the extra chutzpah was the way the stories were told. As the young thespians came on the ‘stage’, exuding confidence and indulged in some extempore performances, the audience kept clapping for an encore.
A couple of trysts with scribes were a special treat. The papers, the day after, were quite magnanimous in their coverage of the event. The Principals of the institutes gave feedback which was really encouraging. The final word of course was Samba Lamarr’s of The Book Mark Sahaki the heart, soul and mind behind the festival: “Ramendra, I am so happy you came. This kind of an event has never happened to Shillong!”
‘My dear Samba, this kind of an experience has never happened to me too.’