"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Monday, March 16, 2009

More Nigerian children read Amadi's story

I first met Kelly Jo Bahry online, in November, during Amadi's blog tour. She lives in Yola, where Ramesh Raparthy shot this lovely video (as a reminder, Ramesh is a Film Instructor at the American University of Nigeria, in Yola, but he's from Hyderabad !) and sent me an email, saying she was coming to India in December. Of course, I invited her to visit us. In the end, she didn't come to Hyderabad, but we did meet her in Delhi, and we spent a couple of days together. Our children loved Kelly Jo, who is the kind of human being one wants and needs around at all times : warm, funny, independent, smart, and down to earth. Kelly Jo also happens to be the Director of Study Abroad and Service Learning, for the American University of Nigeria, in Yola.
She brought back several copies of Amadi's Snowman to Nigeria, and has been sharing Amadi's story with children, over there. She sent me some photos.

I'm so happy that children in Nigeria get to see and read the book. Thank you, Kelly Jo!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

One aspect of the debate on diversity in children's books : the name of the characters

Mitali Perkins launched a new great discussion about diversity in children's books, here, and here. I was glad to see one question address the issue of the lack of diversity in the characters' names. I ranted enough about this (well, I had Amadi do it, actually) when it was decided that I had to find him a new name; Ifeanyi (his original name) was deemed too strange, too difficult to read. I could understand the publisher's and editor's concerns and I know they had the book's best interest at heart. This is not so much about them, as it is revealing of a general, mainstream approach to all things considered even mildly different, therefore possibly threatening, at the very least difficult -- and who has time for difficult, right? 

As a sidenote, I shared the name anecdote with the children at the Vidyaranya High School, here, in Hyderabad. I wrote Ifeanyi on the black board, without having said it, and asked them to read it. They all did, flawlessly. Of course, these children are all at least bilingual (English and Hindi, and/or Telugu, and/or Tamil, and/or Urdu, and/or Bengali... etc, etc.) Maybe one answer to that particular problem would be to put more emphasis on the need for American children to learn at least one other language (and when I say learn, I mean as in being able to actually speak it, really, not just playing around with a few strange or funny-sounding words here and there, words forgotten almost as soon as they've been heard.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Concert Etiquette in Hyderabad

Warning : this is a mood (mildly annoyed) piece, I believe the very first one, but I just HAVE to publish this post.

Two nights ago, I attended a concert in Hyderabad. This is a rare occurrence. First of all, baby-sitting is often an issue. Second, cultural events are often organized at the most inconvenient times for a mother of small children (read weekday, 6.30 or 7 pm, etc). The last reason is that Hyderabad cannot exactly boast of having a very happening and exciting cultural life. But this is changing, along with so many other things.

On Sunday night, the Duo Rosario was here, from France, and I decided I would not miss this. As an opera lover who used to live in New York, London and Paris, I have been starved for this type of performance. As luck would have it, our car decided to break down on Sunday, the taxi supposed to come and fetch us couldn’t find its way (the new taxi companies created after the new airport opened often hire drivers who come straight from their village; some speak English, others not a word, and some know their way around Hyderabad, and others have absolutely no clue as to where they are, or where they’re supposed to be going), but we still managed to arrive... two minutes late, but a few minutes before the concert began.

The first part of the evening saw diverse musicians, some professionals, others amateurs, before the main performance by the Duo Rosario.

There was no reason for me to be so stressed out at the thought that we were late...

As Aleksandra Mikolajczyk, who happens to be my daughter’s piano teacher, started playing an Etude by Chopin, I was amazed to see that people continued to come in and go as if they were entering a supermarket or a restaurant. Even more incredible: a swarm of photographers started taking pictures of the pianist from all possible angles, their noisy flashes blinding her! I couldn’t believe it. Later on, when Celine Laly from the Duo Rosario sang (beautifully!) a cell phone rang, and a few minutes later, another one. I could see her eyes zeroing in on the person whose phone was ringing, even though she did manage to finish her song flawlessly. 

Question: Is this really cultural? The lack of punctuality is a fact of life, here. I know it, I’ve lived with it for the past few years, and I’ll never get used to it, but I also understand that there isn’t much I can do about it. Still, how difficult would it be to address such issues, at least when being late becomes downright discourteous, not to say blatantly disrespectful - then again, isn’t it always discourteous and disrespectful to be late? Seems to me a few simple rules would do the trick:


1. Latecomers will not be allowed to enter while the artist is performing.

2. Cellphones must be switched off during the performance.

3. Photographers are to wait until the performer is done to take pictures, or at least do it in the most unobtrusive way.