KARACHI: The British Deputy High Commission was abuzz with the pitter-patter and giggles of children Thursday morning, as it hosted an event to celebrate the 100th birthday of British children’s author, Roald Dahl.
Over 100 kids under the age of nine were transported to the fantastical world of Roald Dahl via a story-telling session. Beginning with tales from Esio Trot narrated by Chris Hunt, British Council’s director for Sindh and Balochistan regions, the children participated in the interactive session after being asked a series of questions such as ‘So what if the tortoise slept for such a long time? What was he doing?’.
It was amusing to see the children eagerly respond to the questions in unison, almost as if they had practised. Even Hunt was surprised to see the cheerful kids participate and answer his questions correctly.
British deputy high commissioner Belinda Lewis shared her thoughts on Roald Dahl and said, “You can be listening to [Dahl’s] stories and have your own imaginings about them but you can also try to close your eyes for 10 seconds and think about nothing at all.”
The latter, she said, was in reference to Dahl’s work on the short stories relating to Henry Sugar who trained himself to see things through his mind. According to Lewis, her own mind was more like a butterfly that hopped from one flower to another in rapid succession.
Steve Crossman, British deputy head of mission, said, “It is just a great [feeling] to share the greatest literary works with them. I am thankful to these kids who have chosen to spend the day at the commission.”
Iqbal Saleh Muhammad, the managing director of Paramount Books, praised the British society and told the young audience that it is free of discrimination. “Look at its current cricket team; it comprises four minority players,” he said. “The future of Pakistan lies with the young blood of today. We take things for granted but children are like angels and I hope you grow to remain like angels and have good qualities of a human in you, which include honesty, truthfulness, and selflessness and to never look down upon one another.”
He added that it is said that man’s best friend is a dog but more than a dog, man’s better friends are books. “Create long-lasting friendships with them by reading,” he advised the children.
“The experience was very inspirational,” said Hunt while talking about reading Dahl’s stories to the children. “There were difficult words but the children understood the stories. Many [words] in the English [language] have been adopted from the world of Dahl. I myself grew up reading his work. This storybook is easily available in our library, also.”
The best part of the session was not the wonderfully told stories but instead the look on the faces of the children - some yawning, some laughing, but all listening intently to the tales of Roald Dahl.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2016.