Storytelling at the Mumbai Mobile Creche (MMC)

The Mumbai Mobile Creche (MMC) is a non-profit dedicated to the education and care of children of construction workers who often miss out on schooling due to the migratory nature of their parents' work. The MMC centres are located at construction sites. There are currently 20 such centres in the Mumbai area.

MMC Juinagar
I first learned about MMC when I was a pre-school teacher. Mr. Katta Babu (from MMC) led a teachers’ workshop to make puppets out of recyclable and reusable materials. The workshop was fantastic for we ended up with amazing puppets and plenty of satisfaction. I was ecstatic for I realized that I didn't need to be an artist to create such teaching aids. In fact, I was so inspired that I created a bunch of more puppets with my newly discovered skills and used them in my storytelling sessions. That was 5-6 years ago.

My book that was selected by MMC
 for Book Week in November

MMC came into my life this November, but this time I am a children’s author. My picture book, Lunch-Friends was selected to be one of the books read aloud at all the 20 MMC centres during Book Week.







Then on December 11, 2017, I had the opportunity to personally visit the MMC centre in Juinagar for storytelling and book reading in Hindi. I read from my book, The New Girl (or Nayi Ladki).

Within the construction site in Juinagar

Located off a busy, truck-laden road in the midst of a Raheja construction site, the MMC centre was a temporary asbestos shack in the middle of similar shacks that serve as housing for construction workers and families.

We were received by Manisha, the library teacher, who walked us through security at the gate. Later she also shared that my book, Lunch-Friends (earlier mentioned as my book that had been read to MMC children for Book Week) was something she could well connect with. The story reminded her of a huge mango tree that she grew up with in her village. Sadly the tree was cut down, just like in the story!
The wonderful children waiting patiently for storytelling
to begin

Our group, consisting of my dear friend, Shyamala and my son, Mihir, was received warmly with a "Good Afternoon!" from the children and their teacher, Arunadevi.

The children were in the age range, 3-14 years. There were also younger children who had a separate area dedicated to their play and needs.





The walls were decorated like any school classroom - with lovely artwork made by the children. High speed ceiling fans helped keep reasonable temps as the children sat on their mats, waiting for the session to begin.

  

 This was a very special session for me because of a lot of ‘firsts’…
        Being at an MMC centre for the first time,
        Storytelling in Hindi  (folktale) for the first time,
        Reading my book, The New Girl to children for the first time, and
        Reading the book in Hindi, Nayi Ladki for the first time.

My book that I read in Hindi

As I ‘told’ my first story (a folktale without a book) and then read Nayi Ladki to the children, it was a delight to see them participating and contributing to related discussions. Incidentally, there was a new boy in the class that very day!



 







After the storytelling and reading, Nayi Ladki was added to the centre’s library with great honour by the oldest child, Suraj.

My book finds a place in the library!




Then it was time to do artwork related to the stories.


Artistic wall hangings
made with paper

All the children at the centre enjoy art. Thanks to the teachers who have imparted their skills to the children, recycled artwork is the theme all around the classroom.

Rehan shows us his organizer
Rehan (see pic on right) helped make this pen/pencil organizer with milk tetrapaks. Suraj (holding Nayi Ladki in pic above) pointed to a guitar on the wall that had been made with corrugated cardboard. Stick puppets made with recycled materials covered part of the wall.

Suraj holds my book after
our reading
The children did a fantastic job with the assigned colouring sheet that was themed anekta mein ekta (‘unity in diversity’). In fact, many of them added several details with pencils and created amazing art!

                                 
   


While the children worked on their art, I took a moment to talk to Manisha and learned that the children spend most of the day at the centre except to go home (which is a stone's throw away) for lunch with their parents. Those who don't go home are given food at the centre. Their day ends with milk and chikki (peanut brittle with jaggery), a snack rich in iron, a mineral the children are lacking in. I felt a tug at my heartstrings when a 4 y.o. excitedly said to me, "We're going to get milk now!"

Farewell, MMC. Will visit again soon!
The MMC visit was heart-warming and inspiring. As we departed, we were given a loving farewell with beautiful handmade cards created by the older children. In fact, Rehan, who had earlier seemed unwell, surprised me with a beautiful flower he’d made within minutes.

The love and affection shown by the children was priceless! Some of them even came to see us off, thanking us again and again and asking us to come back with more stories.

Children are the same everywhere. It’s all a matter of what resources and opportunities are made available to them that help bring out their skills and talents. And MMC is doing a fantastic job about that!


But there is always room for more. So let’s ask ourselves what we can do for children like those at the MMC. Even the smallest things we do could help them go a long way.






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