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The children’s library: A room for creativity and imagination

INDThe children’s library: A room for creativity and imagination


Children belonging to economically weaker sections come to the Safdar Trust Library in West Delhi to spend their time fruitfully
| Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Every Sunday morning, Studio Safdar in Shadi Khampur in West Delhi, is filled with the boundless energy of neighborhood children, all bustling with laughter and learning. Inside a room with black painted walls, a yellow bulb shines on children sitting on the floor and reading books intently or engaged in activities such as drawing and acting.

Shirda Khan is fascinated by a picture of a hornbill; Khushnuma Saifi helps Asad Ahamad with the popular Hindi rhyme Lambi Dhadi Vale Baba (The man with the long beard); A tussle breaks out over a set of crayons. In the midst of the din, Rehnuma continues reading her book, Tale of Khichdi. In another corner, a group of children are busy shooting a trailer for an upcoming theatre festival, Shadipur Natak Utsav.

Named after the late Safdar Hashmi, playwright-director who popularised Indian street theatre, the Safdar Studio is an independent, non-funded space for arts and activism, established in 2012 by Jana Natya Manch, the political street theatre group founded by Hashmi, who was killed by a mob during a street play.

“Safdar always wanted a space in areas where the working class lives, so that they could easily have access to a creative outlet. We gave shape to his idea and set up this comprehensive cultural space under the Studio Safdar Trust,” says Moloyashree Hashmi, his wife and secretary of the Trust.

At least 30 children, between four and 14 years of age, show up between 10 am and noon, every Sunday. Volunteers are hired for the programme for three months to assist the children with reading.

Children drawing in the children’s library.

Children drawing in the children’s library.
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

In 2013, we first started a children’s library but that worked only during the summer holidays. In 2024, we thought of using the space for different activities and look beyond just the library,” says Moloyashree.

For the children who come, the two-hour session is split into two parts. The first hour is dedicated to engaging with books — some children read, others pore over the pictures, and a few read to themselves. Volunteers read out stories to help everyone comprehend.

The second hour includes activities such as drawing, games, and on-the-spot creative interactions.

“The activities help them identify their potential and understand each other better, “ says Nikhil Sharma, library in-charge. “We encourage the children to think, tweak the storylines of the books they read or even invent new games,” he adds.

Children belonging to economically weaker sections come to the Safdar Trust Library in West Delhi to spend their time fruitfully

Children belonging to economically weaker sections come to the Safdar Trust Library in West Delhi to spend their time fruitfully
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Many children apparently come to the centre without informing their parents. Nikhil recalls a touching moment when a child brought her six-month-old brother, balancing a book in one hand and holding the baby in the other.

“There are a few children who visit once and do not return. We have now put in place an attendance tracking system and realise the main reason for children dropping out is migration or poverty,” says Moloyshree and adds, “the pandemic was a setback. Reopening after the pandemic was a challenge as families had relocated. We had to bring the children back after lot of deliberations with the parents.”

The children are now getting ready for the upcoming annual event, the Shadipur Natak Utsav, scheduled to be held in September this year. The children create their own plays and stage them. In addition, artistes from across the country come to entertain them.

“Some children do not attend school; I feel overwhelmed when I realise I am their first teacher imparting skills or knowledge to them,“ says Ikra, who herself attended the Sunday library and is a volunteer now. She embodies the programme’s vision of community engagement in gaining knowledge.



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