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Indian Youth Discovering Haiku
— Kala Ramesh
It is great fun to work with children – for the very name ‘haiku’ fascinates them! Curiosity is one thing kids have in abundance and if you catch that you tap into some great creativity and talent.
I can report this confidently now! But I still remember the first school where I was asked to teach haiku, way back in 2006. It was a government school in Delhi, under Katha.org’s “I Love Reading” program – I had two 40-minute sessions with ten-year-olds— whose teacher, on seeing me, quickly stepped out, assuming it was her “free period.”
There I was face-to-face with 50 little kids and I was supposed to teach them this 400-year-old art form from Japan. I was just 8 months into haiku and had no experience teaching it. Where to start and where to finish? I was at my wits end. I was a complete failure; neither the kids nor I knew what I was doing!
After the lunch break, I had my second chance with the other section – again 50 children, all eager to learn. I showed them an A 4 size paper with a haiku typed on it and asked them to illustrate it. After 5 minutes, I made such a fuss about their drawings – I told one child to come forward and show it to the whole class, and asked another to pin up her drawing on the board. I got the class to clap for a third child, and so on. The whole class came alive!
I found myself saying, “It is not a rule – but if you can’t ‘draw’ a haiku, it is not a haiku!” The kids were smiling from ear to ear and I felt like I’d caught the tiger by its tail— which is how haiku looked to me that day!
Next I got them to write one word and illustrate it. Many didn’t understand the difference between concrete and abstract words. For instance one student wrote the word “sorrow” and drew tears trickling down a woman’s face. When I questioned her, the class answered that one can’t draw “sorrow.” From here it was easy for me to lead them into using concrete words and soon they caught on to the “tiger.”
Now, after teaching haiku for nearly 8 years, I have some tricks up my sleeve! I innovate as I go but always see to it they understand the “cut” – the “kire.” Most of my time goes into this, and by the end of the workshop, I get some beautiful haiku, all written by the children themselves.
The haiku featured here were written by the students from Katha CBSE Creative Writers’ Workshop, British School Delhi, PSBB Millennium School Chennai, Bookaroo Children’s Literary Festival, Symbiosis International University, Symbiosis Centre for Management Studies, Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, and Sunaparanta Arts Centre Goa.
Links to children’s haiku and beyond for readers who want to read more about Children’s haiku :