“Indian literature for kids is still in its nascent stage”


Authors at the children’s literature festival Bookaroo 2012 feel publishers need to be more open about the works of Indian writers

Nupur Sonar 
New Delhi

Complete with a think tank, a doodle wall and an outdoor bookstore the children’s literature festival, Bookaroo 2012, was a mini wonderland of sorts that brought together authors, illustrators, storytellers and publishers.

The event that recently concluded in Delhi gave children an opportunity to interact with over 30 authors including Ruskin Bond, Jerry Pinto, Paro Anand and Roopa Pai. Amrita Tuli, 13, who has been a regular at the event over the years, says that Bookaroo has always introduced her to new books and meeting the authors has helped her understand better some of the books she has read. The authors too found the interaction with kids enriching. Sampurna Chattarji, who is writing a book on the issue of adoption said, “Interacting with the kids helped me ratify the idea I was working with.”

Pune-based Hindustani classical musician and poet Kala Ramesh, who conducted a Haiku workshop at the event, said that the best part of her session was that within an hour, the kids were able to pick up on Haiku. “As we get older, we try and tell stories in a fictional way, but children tell the truth and they are so creative. Haiku is about nature and change and they do a wonderful job of portraying that. All they need is a space and platform and well, Bookaroo has done just that,” she added.

Accessibility to Indian literature for kids has been one of the major reasons for the lack of awareness about them in the Indian market. “Indian literature for kids is still in its nascent stage. Accessibility to these books is the main problem. In which country do you walk into a bookstore and find more books from another country than your own,” asked author Shamim Padmasee, who starting writing “to be able to convey the best of India to kids.” And, Bookaroo’s outdoor bookstore was an attempt to bridge that gap. It was packed with an array of books, mostly Indian, and was abuzz with parents and kids alike.

Another void in the Indian market, that most authors at the venue felt needs to be filled, is the lack of Young Adult literature in India. “After a certain age, kids are just reading adult novels. I’m sure it’s all right but something that addresses them particularly would be very useful,” emphasised author Paro Anand, whose latest books include No Guns At My Son’s Funeral and Weed. Author Sampurna Chattarji added, “Books that deal with difficult issues need to hit the market. We still fight shy about telling stories that deal with issues like teenage pregnancy that occur in our society. But somehow we seem to rely on the books that come from the West for stories that cut close to the bone and deal with the grimmer side of life. I think that’s a gap that we writers need to fill and there also needs to be a certain openness in the publishing world about what Indian writers are writing.”

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