Monday, November 24, 2008

More Bookaroo photos

(Earlier post here) The Sanskriti Anand Gram, which I had never visited before, is the perfect venue for an informal cultural event during a Delhi winter. Very well-maintained (especially if you know about the disuse that many of our museums fall into), with a fine collection of artifacts – textiles, terracotta statues, murals and wall paintings from around the country. We wandered about and looked at some of the exhibitions but our focus was of course Bookaroo, with its many events simultaneously taking place at a number of venues, none of which was more than a minute’s brisk walk from any other: the open-air amphitheatre, a giant tent and a clearing under the banyan tree at the Anand Gram’s entrance. All very relaxed and kid-friendly (and friendly also for an adult who might wish to event-hop); it reminded me of the first couple of years of the Jaipur literature festival.

A few pictures taken by this event-hopping adult (click to enlarge):

Crowd milling about near the entrance; in the foreground is the writer-naturalist Ranjit Lal, whom I wrote about here.

Lal conducted a very informal talk titled “Are Insects Like Us?” (in which, among other things, he conversationally informed a bunch of wide-eyed kids that the average 100-flat residential complex in Delhi might at any given time contain the carcasses of 25,000 spiders in spider-wasp nests – “it’s like a genocide!”). Later I spotted him wandering in the Anand Gram’s sizeable gardens with his bulky camera.

Comic-book artist Jeff Smith showing his youthful audience how to draw Bone:

Despite there being a microphone problem he managed to make the session interactive, asking questions like “When you see Bone running in the strip, what do you see behind him?” (Ans: “The wind! A cloud of dust!”). Much chortling ensued when he drew Bone salivating over a pani-puri.

Under the banyan tree, Anita Roy (left, with mike) tells “Seriously Silly Stories”.

In a wonderfully performed session in the open-air amphitheatre, Venita Coelho read from her book Dungeon Tales, as an actor played the part of a buffoonish "Badmash Badshah" alongside her. This was a very popular session.

Artist Bulbul Sharma paints “Fabulous Beasts” on a canvas, with a little prompting from her audience – they ended up getting her to draw a two-headed bird with 10 tails and a shopping bag. (“I didn’t bring my white paint!” she exclaimed when they asked her to draw “old hair” on the bird.)

Madhubani painting and terracotta figures on the inside walls of the museum.

Sampurna Chattarji and little Samit Basu pose with the horses.

Sampurna was a big hit with her session “Stuff and Nonsense”, and also participated in a panel about new ways of interpreting the Panchatantra; meanwhile Samit joined us in walking about aimlessly.

The Britannia tiger greets children while an aunty looks on suspiciously.

The Eureka bookstore at the venue was a reminder of just how much choice and variety there is in writing for children these days. With the catalogues of publishers like Scholastic, Tara, Puffin and Pratham getting ever larger, things are very different from a few years ago, when Enid Blyton still accounted for the bulk of sales.


  1. That's a lovely collection of pictures and nice narrative. I have never been to such sessions in Hyderabad. Not so popular here.

    - Sangeetha

  2. Did a story on children's lit in India couple of years back, and got the feeling this category was hotting up. Glad to see festivals like this happening, though of course they won't bring it to Bangalore. Which is a pity because now I even have a bonafide child!

  3. Jai, where exactly is this place? (I know it shows somewhere close to the Delhi-Haryana border...but which side?)

  4. Shrabonti: children's lit has most definitely taken off, and going by the stuff I've read the quality is quite high too. Also interesting to see how much irreverent/nonsensical/Dr Seuss-like stuff is happening - the kind of stuff Anita Roy champions. You get the impression that there were always authors who could do good work in this genre but that publishers have taken a while to become more open-minded about kid's lit (and different types of kid's lit).

    Straight curves: slightly closer to the Haryana border. If you're traveling from the Delhi side you have to go a couple of km past the 1, MG Road area and take a U-turn around Ayanagar. Metro construction complicates things these days but there are signboards around.

  5. I loved that. I'm attending next year's Jaipur Literature Festival to actually see Hari Kunzru. I fell in love with his writing after reading The Impressionist.

    Thanks again...

  6. Was good to 'fleetingly' meet you at Bookaroo ! And I didn't know that Samit was there too :( Damn! Missed meeting him.

    There was this other lady, Anupa Lal who was a hit with the kids for her Hindi stories. Totally amazing storyteller!

  7. Wow! I'm so glad such events are gaining popularity and I wish I was there. Btw, your blog is a treat.

  8. I wrote about this festival on our blog last week. It is great to see your photos and read about your experiences. I am sure it will become an annual event! Great to see children's literature getting this exposure. As one of your previous posters said, it is nice to see it "hotting up"!