Bookaroo opened on 26th November with the school’s day events taking place on abright sunny Friday. As I entered through the gates of IGNCA, I was greeted withwarm smiles at the reception desk and a large banner that depicted a rather cheekymonkey clamoring on top of “BOOKAROO”. IGNCA is a large area spread out overexpanses of green, bordered generously with trees…A warm breeze, tinged by a slightchill that merely lent a faint blush fluttered around rustling up the grass.
In a few minutes I was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of children laughing,squealing with delight, jumping all around me, ecstatic and dazzled. Why dazzled?Bookaroo allowed their spirits to soar, what with activities, events, talks, performances;you-name-it! Eureka, a children’s bookstore located in Alaknanda had also opened shopat IGNCA, so children could not only buy their favourite books, but also get them signedby their favorite authors! What made the entire experience thoroughly enjoyable was also the fact that it was easy and effortless. Maps of the entire area, properly markedand named, were available, so one would have no problem hopping from one placeto another, attending events of their choice. Had it not been for the schedules and thesignboards that were put up almost everywhere, the scatter-brain in me would have mostcertainly gotten lost! When the hopping around got to you, hunger gnawed at your verycore and your tummy rumbled complaints, you could hop over to a lovely clearing set upwith tables and chairs and stalls of food. An inherent glutton, the momos and soft drinksand sandwiches and chocolate bars and pizzas set me sighing till a friend rapped me onthe head rudely and awoke me from my food-fantasy. How perfectly nasty of him!
The first day, that is, the school’s day saw 12 events taking place, 6 at a time. WendyOrr, author of “The Nim’s Island Journey” talked to children under the Kahani Tree, alarge tree with countless branches that looked like one of those ancient, wise old treesthat smiled down at you like a crinkly-eyed grandmother. As soon as I saw it, I felt as ifit turned to me and said something like- “Come, my child. Come sit under my branchesas I sway them to call the wind. Listen to stories that my bark has grown old on.” It’s agood thing I know I’m rather strange, have limitless imagination and am rather fond ofgrandmothers. I’m quite sure you’d have scampered off! xD
To come back to the event…the children were so engrossed in the event that duringquestion-answer time, hands shot up in seconds and stayed up for minutes till they wereacknowledged! The sensitivity of the children was admirable. They asked extremelythoughtful questions, considering that they were aged between 8-10! While one little boyasked Miss Orr when and why she started writing, another one asked her what inspirationmeant to her. There were so many hands that in the end, Miss Orr decided to close hereyes and pick a hand. The little girl her hand picked asked her, “Is there any book thatrelates most to your real life?Miss Orr closed her eyes for a few seconds, opened them, took a deep breath andsaid, “One about a car accident, yes…”Children are generally restless and fidgety. I know I was quite a hyper child and Iknow what it takes to captivate a child and hold his/her attention for an hour. Miss Orrpossesses in abundance the noble virtue that is patience. She heard each child. In fact,she let them do most of the talking! Like a wise man once said, “Knowledge speaks, but
wisdom listens…”Ishwarya Subbiah, a volunteer said-“To say that the kids are hyper would be an understatement of sorts, but it is very excitingto see them speak so confidently!”When Jeeva Raghunath took to the mike and called out to the children- Storyyyy, itsstorytiiime, it was a sight to watch! As she sang out her story-time call, children fromevery direction ran, no they almost flew to occupy the seats! It was as if her voice drewthem to her; even the adults couldn’t stay behind, they joined their children, and soon,there was a huge circle that sat and stood around her. As she started telling the crowda well-known folk story from Bengal, their eyes sparkled with curiosity and delight,as her trained voice washed over them in waves. Her confidence was overpowering.She danced, jumped, shouted, laughed, mimicked, wailed, all with effortless ease andsurety! You couldn’t possibly not join in the fun. I’ve always found it difficult to singand dance in a crowd and move my hands around wildly. But within a few minutes intoher performance, I was singing, “Ta na ne na ne na ne naaaaaa” at top volume without acare! She had simply coerced us all into joining her; we needed no extra encouragement.The children had a brilliant time! I know because I did! She did it all. Her voice is aninstrument she has mastered, for we heard the door creaking, the little girl laughing,slurping, lapping, licking and more!It is the kind of experience that stays with you, that you probably think of later and laugh,remembering the joy that coursed through your being when you lived it.