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Bookaroo - A Paradise in Jannat!
by Ramendra Kumar
 
 

 

 

 
 

The exquisite beauty of Kashmir, the warmth and cheer of its friendly people and the first of its kind festival of children’s literature – can one imagine amore delightful blend of joy and masti, wit and wisdom?

Bookaroo the festival of children’s literature ‘brought the joy of books to Kashmir’ on7th and 8th May with story tellers, authors, illustrators, musicians and a bookstore pitching in to unleash a wave of creativity that swept the city of Srinagar.

Now let me give you the low down of my tryst with Bookaroo, the Jannat of all festivals in Srinagar, the Paradise of all cities!

I landed in Srinagar on 6th evening and headed straight for Delhi Public School, the picturesque venue of Bookaroo.

I was introduced to my fellow participants. Those present were the virtual who’s who of the children’s writing and illustration world.  Meeting all the marquee names was a humbling experience.  With all the heavy weights around I found myself shifting rather quickly from the genus of the bantam weight to the light or should I say feather weight!

On 7th as I entered the school, the ambience of colour, fun and festivity was all pervasive. My first session was at Pachakatha. It started off with a modest 100 odd students but soon swelled to double the number. The kids shouted, clapped and sang with me and as far as I was concerned the roller coaster that was Bookaroo had begun.

The second session was a panel discussion with Subhadra Sen Gupta, the internationally acclaimed writer on history, travel and mythology, M.Venkatesh of Eureka fame in the chair and two students. This was in the Stadium and by the time it started it was packed. The only problem was that age group ranged from 7 to 16 and we did not know where to pitch our discussion. Venkatesh, I think, managed it rather deftly and thanks to Subhadra and one of the students, who was particularly good, the session went off like a breeze.

It was back to Pachkatha in the afternoon. This time my story was a bit serious one but I feel I got a great response from the 300 odd audiences. When I asked the kids if they had any questions most of them responded with the rather affectionate demand - “One more story!” 

I was naturally thrilled and belted out another one and soon we were all shouting and yelling and clapping and ……

On 8th, the session was in Studio – a more controlled affair with a small but attentive audience of children and parents.

In my next session at Pachakatha I was in for a shock. My audience was supposed to be in the age group 12-14 but instead I found 8-10 year olds staring expectantly at me. I decided to changed the story (much against the wishes of my one person advisory panel - my son Aniket) as well as the language – English to Hindustani. The audience was huge – 300 plus and I think lapped up the story.  

The panel discussion with Manisha Chaudhury, experienced editor, translator and Commissioning editor with Pratham Books   and Deepa Agarwal, one of the most popular children’s writers of India, too needed a lot of improvisation. The audience here was too modest but thankfully attentive and with the talented Manisha at the steering wheel and Deepaji at her brilliant best, the result was rather satisfying.

The author signing session was great fun. It was terrific to see kids of all ages as well as sisters, brothers and parents come up with books for signing.  At a rough guesstimate I must have autographed more than 70 books. For a feather weight like me that’s quite a figure!

Eureka beautifully managed by Swati Roy and Venktesh with young Arvind chipping in, might not have been a whopping success in terms of sales but it sure was a treat for sore eyes as children pored over books, held animated discussions and flitted in and out their little arms laden with books. For an author this sure was one of the most delectable scenes at Bookaroo.

On 8th evening we went to the Spring Festival at the famous Almond Villa.

There as I was watching my wife Madhavi plotting a shopping expedition, I saw a 12 year old girl walk up to me.

“Uncle I saw you at Bookaroo, yesterday!”

“Really!”

“I liked your story: ‘A Kite called Shaolin’.”

“Thanks beta,” I said as she smiled and disappeared making my spirits soar like Shaolin!

Ten minutes later I heard another voice.

“Uncle were you in DPS today?” This time it was an eight year old charmer flashing a dimpled smile at me.

“Yes, I was.”

“You told a story about a tiger.”

“Did you like it?”

“Yes.”

“What did you like about it?”

“You made us laugh and shout so much.”

“You now make me want to scream and jump with joy,” I wanted to tell her.

These two encounters of the soft and dimpled kind provided a perfect footnote for what was an unforgettable experience.   

18-May-2011
 
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