November, the month of Rajyothsava celebrations in Karnataka, has seen a bouquet of Kannada rhymes blossom from Akashavani Bengaluru.
Akashavani Bengaluru has created a treasure trove for children by producing a pack of Kannada Rhymes weaved in melody. While contributing to Kannada, this would be a happy inclusion for this year’s Rajyothsava made more special. All India Radio recently aired the first few episodes of the rhymes in its ‘Haadu Maataadu’ programme where the Kannada rhymes were shared and taught to pre-school Anganawadi children in the State. The programme, in association with the Dept of Women and Child Welfare, Government of Karnataka (who run the Anganawadis), has brought in 11 Kannada rhymes in the first segment of the 11 episodes, aired on FM Rainbow, Vivid Bharati, and all the AIR stations of Karnataka.
Akashavani plans to have many more episodes coming up as the response from Kannadigas have been from Ireland to Kuwait and many other parts of India, apart from the whole of Karnataka. “English rhymes have generally been more popular in most schools. But AIR decided to step in and build a bridge of melody to have all the pre-schooling Anganawadi children learn rhymes in Kannada. We thought their first exposure to learning can be melodious and in a language that they were familiar with,” says Dr. N. Raghu, Asst Director of Programmes, Akashavani, who has also scripted and presented the programme.
“There are 65,000 Anganwadis in the State with 16 lakh children there exposed to the basics of learning. Anganawadis have not functioned for the last few months due to COVID 19. Children have been denied their nutritional food and informal lessons. So our target was to address them, along with reaching out to their parents and Anganawadi teachers who can take them forward,” says Raghu, adding that even the first episode of ‘Haadu Maataadu’ a few weeks ago on AIR had discerning listeners, and once posted on YouTube it garnered 14,000 views.
‘Haadu Maatadu’ got ignited with a determined Programme Executive of AIR, SR Bhat, Producer of this radio show. Bhat’s passion to present something permanently worthwhile to the deserving children at Anganawadis, a dream he always nurtured, had him speak to the authorities at the Dept of Women and Child Welfare to take it forward. “To begin with I got hold of an old book of Kannada rhymes that the Department had themselves brought out long ago. It had a staggering 120 rhymes in it, but none were being taught at schools. All the rhymes were in simple language, talking of our general life around us. Every rhyme had meaningful, positive aspects to it, pegging on making the tiny tots think and learn. This was enough for me to take it up with my seniors at Akashavani, and the rest is history now,” says Bhat, feeling rewarded as the majority of interior Karnataka households who can afford to possess only radios, were reached out to.
Bhat was also happy to be dealing with rhymes that spoke of the different seasons, the days of the week and the months of a year, describing the variety of vegetables, the making of ragi mudde, how the paddy in the field turned into rice on the stove, or just about describing the King-sized lion or the gigantic parts of an elephant’s makeover! “The best way to take the rhymes across was to make Raghu spin the rhyme in a mono-act storyline and get it action-packed for kiddos, simultaneously playing the melodic rhyme on the show. Raghu’s perfect voicing and his friendly narrative was a big hit, with kids wanting to see their ‘favorite hero, Raghu-mama!” says Bhat.
“Indian culture welcomes the rain, so I was happy to include the rhyme ‘Huyyo Huyyo Maleraaya’ (welcoming the shower) when the English medium always had “Rain Rain Go away! Raghu mama’s narrative on how watering the garden brought green veggies and a good harvest in all seasons had one of the kids- respondents Sarayu from Mangalore water her garden every day saying ‘raghu mama has asked me to do this!’
The programme had ‘Raghu-mama’ exhorting children to learn and repeat the rhymes with him on the show, and practice the lines with teachers and parents, and send their sessions back as response-videos for their appreciation. We observed a fundamental change in children’s attitude, and we saw kids from the economically weaker sections pining to be part of the learning process in the innumerable mobile videos!” says Bhat.
Commenting on the format of ‘Haadu Maatadu’ that had to be worked out to retain the attention of the little-ones, Bhat says, they wanted to have a sing-along story weaved in while making it peppy for children to act and dance while reciting them. “We were determined to have the rhymes in melody, and Dr. Raghu, who is also associated with music programs, zeroed- in on musician and composer Praveen D Rao to score them with all our specifications, as Praveen has worked with children on many projects and was a familiar turf for him,” says Bhat.
“I put 11 rhymes in melody in about a week,” says Praveen. “I enjoyed doing this. Serving children with melodies for their initial path of learning makes it easy and friendly. It is an exercise I was happy to be associated with. Mangala Ravi and Supriya Raghunandan who have sung the rhymes were happy to be singing for children in the nook and corners of Anganawadis in Karnataka. As they are available on YouTube, children anywhere can tune to them,” says Praveen.