Book-a-roo

With a name that has resonances of various kinds, I was not sure what I would find at the two day festival of children's books in Delhi, sponsored by Bookaroo, a Charitable Trust based in New Delhi, India committed to bringing children and books together. [They] are a loose collective of booklovers, publishers, booksellers and writers who believe that books are fun and books are for everyone..

A host of sponsors has ensured that this festival brought together a galaxy of children's authors from India and elsewhere- Alison Lester, Devika Rangachari, Paro Anand, Sandhya Rao, Anushka Ravishankar, Subhadra Sengupta, Bulbul Sharma, Manasi Bloch... And the days were filled with activities centered around books of all sorts, from Feluda stories as comics, a host of new Puffins, a charming reissue of Nehru's letters to Indira, Tara Books by the tablefull, Hachette's Horrid Henry. Tulika Chennai's multilingual readers, and so on..

For me, the highlight of the day was an hour long and spectacular A Magic Carpet of Stories by Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain, Dastangos or storytellers, who enthralled an audience that had all ages from 8 to 80. And who listened rapt, with scant awareness of passing time.

The story they told was an excerpt from the The Adventures of Amir Hamza by Ghalib Lakhnavi, newly translated by Musharraf Ali Farooqi, and recently published by Random House (along with his Hoshruba). "The Adventures of Amir Hamza is captured with all its colourful action, ribaldry, and fantastic elements intact. Here is the spellbinding story of Amir Hamza the adventurer who loves Mehr-Nigar, the daughter of the Persian emperor, Naushervan. Guided by a clairvoyant called Bazurjmehr, protected by legendary prophets, and accompanied by his loyal friend, the ingenious trickster Amar Ayyar, Amir Hamza rides his devoted winged demon-steed, Ashqar, into combat against a marvelous array of opponents. A sweeping tale, The Adventures of Amir Hamza is an extraordinary creation and a true literary treasure."

The Dastangoi by Farooqui and Husain was phenomenal, evocative of times past, when the art of storytelling had its place and its pace. Education as performance, so to speak...

Hamza is in our Indian Literature in Translation section, in paperback, 984 pages, Rs 750. ISBN: 9788184000443

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