'She was 5, not even 6. Zuni was playing with my mobile, annoyed I snatched it away. I was surprised to see a poem. So you were writing a poem on my mobile? Why didn't you complete it? Zuni replied you took the mobile away!'
Filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra recalls how he has taken by surprise as he discovered Zuni's talent at 5. Zuni is now 12. She is one of the 3 teenage stars of Zee Jaipur Literature Festival. I ask Zuni's mom, well known film critic and tv personality Anupama Chopra, ' Is this genetic or is it thanks to the atmosphere at home? You and Vidhu are immensely talented, your brother Vikram Chandra is a writer too.'
'Must be genes,' says Anupama, ' Despite the similar atmosphere my 15 year old son shows little inclination for literature.' Zuni released her book 'Painting with Words' at the Literature Festival. Zuni loves the poems of Snehal Kukreja, a 12th standard student from Delhi, another sought after poet at JLF. Teens, children and adults thronged to the venue as Snehal recited 'Crazy' from her collection 'Imagine'
'Have you ever thought of Hugging a Mountain
Are you willing to Trap Time in a Jar?
Have Insane Thoughts occured to you?
Have you been Crazier than you really are?
I've always wanted to Dance on the Ocean
While wearing the Rainbow upon my neck
And the gleaming Sun would make delicious juice
That I could have on my Gingerbread deck'
Snehal 17 is just like any other teenager who loves 'football and jazz and things like that' and wants to persue a career in New Media.
The third star at Zero JLF is another Delhi girl Tanessa Puri. An 11th standard student Tanessa won the 'Swami Vivekananda Excellence Award' organised by CBSE. The poem was dedicated to 'Desh ki Beti' Nirbhaya:
The Mayans have predicted that on December the twenty-second ;
Clouds of permanent darkness will hang as it will be the world’s end;
Can it get any darker that women have to prevent the sanctity of their body and further defend?
With lost human values, what future does humanity plan to ascend?
The golden bird is enveloped by the terror of crimes ;
And still we’re scared of the Mayan’s deathly chimes;
And here we are still waiting for the world to end ;
Has any race ever had a gloomier descend? It is funny how impressed with the poems and response of the crowd we decided to interview Zuni and Tanessa only to realise later that they belong to previlaged families. Listening to Tanessa's session was a Sikh gentleman with a twirled moustache Mr KTS Tulsi. The Supreme Court Senior Lawyer is the maternal grandfather of Tenessa. 'Is there anyone else in the family who is into creative writing?,' I ask KTS. 'Well, my mother was a writer and she named me Kavi but she was disappointed I never went beyond writing law books, replies Kavi TS Tulsi.
Is your child bitten by a literary bug? Would you like to do justice to that 'One talent that is death to lose' as John Milton said? Will your child lose out if you do not rub shoulders with the privileged on a daily basis? Here is a ready reckoner based on the experiences of our 3 teen stars.
If your child writes well and you can't find a publisher, self publish the book. Does it cost a fortune? Not really. Seven hundred copies of Tanessa's book were published for Rs 50,000, while 250 of Snehal's for just Rs 15,000. Tanessa's poem was noticed for the CBSE award after it was posted on her Facebook account. 'Yes. Chance plays a role,' says Tanessa, ' but if you are passionate about your talent you are bound to be noticed.'