Who could tell a children’s story better than a child? If you were to read the stories in Panchumittai , a Tamil children’s magazine, that are for, of and by children, you will be amazed at the storytelling abilities of a child. A group of IT and professionals from other fields, Prabhu, Jeyakumar, Rajesh, Arun Karthick, Sharmila, Dhivya, and Praveen, who as a group is known as Panchumittai Sirar Kuzu, taps this potential of a child’s limitless world through Panchumittai,their magazine that they began publishing a few years ago. They are driven by a passion to hone the creativity of children through stories they publish in their magazine and events they hold for them. “Panchumittai is cotton candy and Sirar Kuzu means children’s group,” explains Jeyakumar.
In 2015, the group organised storytelling sessions in their apartment . These events led to them to start Panchumittai . “A group of five to six Tamil families in Bengaluru in our apartment started doing various activities for children. Till date, we have conducted around 60 events in and around Tamil Nadu and Bengaluru. We run our magazine along with other events. In addition to this, we have created a website for adults (www.panchumittai.com) to understand a child’s world,” says Prabhu, who adds that they ensure the stories for children have no morals and are meant only for a child’s entertainment.
Speaking about how they curate content for the magazine, Jeyakumar says: “70% of the content, which are mainly stories and drawings, are from the children. We also collect children’s creations from different people, including parents, government and private schools and children’s activists,” says Jeyakumar, adding that so far they have received creations from more than 600 children. “We collect stories from children through our events, in written format. If the child is unable to write it, we listen to the story they narrate and write it exactly as the child says it, in simple language, with a few adjustments here and there. We stay true to the child’s story,” says Prabhu, as he shows some issues of the magazine, with delightful stories and illustrations.
“No one else publishes crayon drawings of children, we do,” says Prabhu, as he points to an imaginative drawing of a forest by a child. “Sometimes we include drawings by professionals,” he adds. Apart from stories, the content includes songs for children, stories by eminent writers, comics based on simple science facts, crossword puzzles, introductions to contemporary traditional games, for example Moondrangal and Kudu Kudu rasa, and even book reviews of contemporary children’s literature by children themselves.
Panchumittai , which costs Rs. 50, , was published as an e-magazine in 2016, during February, April, and September. In December 2017 and April 2018, printed versions were published. The printed version of the magazine will be released again in the second week of August.
“Recently, we staged a play Kira Kuzambu by Perch Theatre, Chennai and traditional games by Eniyan,” says Jeyakumar.
Prabhu recalls an instance when a four-year-old girl wove a story just by looking at a drawing! “We published her story in our magazine,” he says, adding that it is experiences like these that encourages them. “Our focus is on children, we don’t want any adult’s interference. We had once set up a story box at the Chennai book fair. Children wrote stories and put them in the box, which we published in our magazine,” concludes Prabhu.