November 29, 2021 2:21:21 am
Until the pandemic and the Central Vista Redevelopment Project reshaped the city and our relationship with it, for many children of Delhi, listening to some of their favourite storytellers bring alive tales of wonder and joy at the Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival, at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) at Janpath, had been a winter staple. The return of the festival after nearly two years, this time at National Rail Museum at Chanakyapuri, since the old IGNCA complex has been razed, marks a return to a semblance of pre-pandemic lives. The two-day festival, which took off on November 27, will see 46 speakers—children’s writers, illustrators, storytellers and publishers—hold sessions for children aged between 4 and 14 years.
On Saturday afternoon, the weekend buzz at the museum seemed to have gained further momentum, as long queues of parents and children snaked their way to the venue. At six different venues, storytelling and art and craft sessions were in progress with veteran writers such as Ranjit Lal, Paro Anand, Deepa Agarwal and artists such as Savio Mascarenhas and Mistunee Chowdhury.
Even though this year’s festival is at a smaller scale — 48 sessions as opposed to the 90 to 100 sessions over the weekend and an additional 25-30 on the preceding Friday — festival director and co-organiser Swati Roy said their efforts have gone into ensuring there is something for everyone at the festival. “As always, we have a lot of new speakers. We have an ongoing activity called the Wall of Healing, based on the book, Somnath Hore: Wounds (by Likhla, Shambhavi Thakur and Kripa Bhatia, published by Art1st). Here, children and adults can come and express their pain and angst, guided by artists who have created the book,” she said.
As children streamed in, poring over programme brochures to decide where to head to or made their way to the bookstore to pick up a book by an author they had just discovered, writers said they were delighted to be back. “It was great to see kids’ animated faces and chat with some who are going to make it good in spite of our education system which aims to garrot them,” said Ranjit Lal, who had one of the opening sessions.
“Bookaroo showed children how to pack a punch in reading for pleasure. Its contribution to Indian kid-lit can’t be measured, so intricately has it been linked to the rise of this glorious phase, in terms of getting more children interested in reading, and of providing a platform to celebrate books, creators and stories,” said author Richa Jha, publisher of Pickle Yolk Books.
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