Lola and Chacko was not a labour of love. It was a celebration of it.
I remember the first time I read the story of Lola and Chacko. After a hectic schedule of back-to-back trips, I was greeted by a host of new faces. They had recently joined the company as part of their internship. I remember the editors, Karthika and Karishma, sending all of us a bunch of fresh stories to read and give feedback on. As it turns out, my favourite one was the one with Lola and Chacko.
By the time I’d read the first two stories, I was already thrilled. But once I was done with the last one, I knew it would be a great story to tell. I knew exactly how to bring it to life. I looked around the office, fully expecting to find one of the more extroverted interns to be the author. But, to my surprise, there was Priyamvada sitting quietly with a dreamy smile across her face. Which just goes to show you – people are like books, and one should never judge a person by the books they write. Or something like that, right?
I told Karthika and Priyamvada that I absolutely loved the story. But also that I might make a few improvisations along the way to get the kids hooked. Luckily for me, they had no objections. Phew!
The Ms Moochie Process
At Ms Moochie, every story is experimented upon by storytellers on their trips to different schools. We figure out first hand whether the stories are enjoyed by the children they were being written for. Children are brutally honest with their feedback. Each piece of feedback is incorporated into the story and tested again until it receives an overwhelmingly positive response from all students.
The first time I tried out Lola and Chacko, I didn’t improvise the story a lot. It usually takes me about two or three tellings to remember all the plot points in the order that it is written. So, my first few tellings just told me that even without improvising too much, the story of Lola, Chacko and their adventure through the forest would work effortlessly.
But where’s the fun in that?
Once I knew the story like the back of my hand, that’s when I started having fun with it. I started to give more detail to the kind of child Lola was and how sweet and cuddly Chacko was. I expanded on all the ways in which they would play together.
The Evolution of the Story
During one session, I had just started telling the story to a classroom full of eager faces. I knew that they were looking forward to being scared silly. All of a sudden, I realised I could make the story scarier. I added the backstory of the forest and its grizzly inhabitant.
Slowly, the world of the forest started to come alive. A dry stick cracking in two; a snake slithering too close for comfort; a bird swooping past right next to a child’s ear. All the drama and tension, the silences and sudden noises, the rising threat of a loved one being eaten alive…
I’ll have to admit, scaring the children and making them all collectively scream to a story that I was taking them along, was a satisfying feeling every time.
After all, who doesn’t love a good rush of adrenaline through the mind of a child, determined to save her best friend from a big, scary monster?