Darsha Kikani's inspired effort of motivating gujarati story writing among students and teachers

Students and teachers belonging to 100 schools from around 22 districts of Gujarat as well as of Mumbai participate in the annual Gujarati Story Writing competition organised by Aatman Foundation, Gandhinagar.

darsha kikani
Darsha Kikani and her team of supporters

Last month, in a public lecture on the topic of education, psephologist Yogendra Yadav shared that “a child has to be taught in his/her mother tongue until the age of 5 years.” He explained how this is important for a strong and solid foundation of a child’s intellect. If this is true, which it is as corroborated by many other experts on education, I wonder why parents today push their children to speak in English instead of their mother tongue.

Darsha Kikani of Aatman Foundation, felt deeply about the issue. Indians have an asset of not only being bilingual but even trilingual (including Hindi) and this aspect, according to Kikani had to be harnessed. A graduate from IIM Ahmedabad’s early batch, the thought led Kikani to establish an annual Gujarati Story Writing Competition, back in 2017. The Ahmedabad based story writing competition, now in its third year has received more than 1400 original fiction stories from approximately 100 English and Gujarati medium schools of Gujarat and Mumbai. This is a fantastic step towards promoting the vernacular language.

The competition, which accepted entries from January 1 to 15, 2019 primarily promotes children of Standard 6th to 10th to write stories in Gujarati but this year Kikani also encouraged teachers as well as children with special abilities to contribute their creativity. The 1400 stories which were segregated from more than 12,000 entries are further filtered into a handful 35/40 stories which each year are selected to get featured in the Varta Melo anthology. The book is curated by Kikani and jury members each year after the competition and helps children in becoming published authors.

darsha kikani
2018 Award ceremony

Winners of the competition, who have contributed the best stories are selected by august literati and jury members and are further felicitated with certificates and cash prizes ranging from Rs. 1000/- to Rs. 11,000/-. The winners are selected from three competitive categories namely, Special Children, Normal Children and Teachers. Kikani who along with her husband began the literature competition invested her personal funds to get the idea moving; today it receives support from corporate social responsibility funds.

This year’s jury includes Gujarati literature personalities like Sakalachand Patel, Natwar Patel and Pragna Patel and the prize distribution ceremony is occurring on February 24, 2019, at the Auditorium at Le Corbusier’s ATMA House. The event will also honour Gujarati children literature writer  Haresh Nayak as well as origami and children craft activity expert Jayant Dharamshi. Shri Chandrakant Sheth, noted poet-author will grace the occassion as the Chief Guest, while ‘sparrow man’ Jagat Kinkhabwala will be present as the Guest of Honour.

In the times when Indigenous languages are facing extinction, initiatives as the one by Aatman Foundation are welcome, as they provide a counter force to the discrimination these languages face.

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