Ashoka:Subhadra Sen Gupta

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JULY 10,2010

Walking through the tunnels and caves of history we reached India Habitat Centre on 10th July, Saturday. The occasion was the celebration of 70th birthday of Puffin Books Pvt Ltd. The event was marked with Book Discussion, quizzes, writing activities and a lot more. The excitement of the students could hardly be contained. Excited by the thoughts of having a gala time at the birthday celebrations 17 students of class VII participated from our school. The brain cells were leaking with the overload of information they had compiled. The enthusiasm and thrill was infectious and we, both Manjot and I became a part of their exhilaration and gaiety. The moment we entered the IHC complex we held captive by the beautiful and stunning visuals. There in an enclosure we saw pink water lilies which for a moment made us forget the searing heat of Delhi. There were big gold fishes too. Everyone stood dumbfounded by the treasure of nature.

The birthday celebrations began with an introduction by Ms.Sodhi from Puffin Books. She told about the forthcoming titles and also about the books in the pipeline. This was followed a brief introduction about the program by Ms.Deepa Agarwal. By now we are all familiar with the name so I am not delving into further details.

Then Ms.Subhadra Sen Gupta took centre stage to move on with the function. She read passages from her book “Ashoka”. The passage was not only captivating but the simplicity of the language held the attention of the children. Next was the much awaited quiz. The quiz was based on the lives of great people like King Ashoka, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawarharlal Nehru, King Akbar and Rani Lakshmibai. In the midst of the thrill many interesting anecdotes were shared by Ms.Sen Gupta.

To say about Ms. Sen Gupta, she has written many wonderful books set in different periods of Indian history, both fiction and non-fiction, apart from several other popular titles. The first phase of the quiz was about King Ashoka. Unlike the images created by movies the life of king Ashoka was not all easy and fun. Ms.Sen Gupta told some really amazing acts about the King. Some of them are here for you to enjoy:
1. King Ashoka owned over 9000 elephants.

2. The bows and arrows used in the warfare were not lightweight as shown in movies and serials. Rather they were huge bows made from bamboo. The soldier used to support it by his left foot since it was too big to carry. So they stood together in a line and used to fire arrows. The arrows too were fine slim ones.

3. The sword used by Ashoka was a thin double edged sword quite unlike the ones we see on television.

4. All the gunners in Rani Lakshmibai’s army were Muslims.

5. The story behind Fatehpur Sikri.

6. The anecdotes of Gandhiji and Rabindranath Tagore.

At the end of the Quiz three difficult questions were asked and as prizes were goodies bag from Puffin. M. Sonali from our school won one of the goodies bag.

The quiz was followed by a writing activity wherein the students were asked to write about an Indian personality who they feel is great. It need not from history but could be someone from one’s own personal life as well.

Students came up with some really pieces of writing ranging from Jawarharlal Nehru to Bhagat Singh to one’s own mother. The write ups were submitted as the best would be published in children’s magazine “Children’s World”.

And the cherry on the cake was the book stall put up by Puffin. They had a lovely collection of books by writers like Ranjit Lall, Subhadra Sen Gupta, Deepa Agarwal, Roald Dahl, and many more… The students picked books of their liking as did I.

The most difficult part was the retracing of our steps back to school. We all had so much that the thought of the celebrations ending made the sweetness of the day turn sour.

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