Monday, December 2, 2013

Our Experience at Bookaroo 2013 Pune

I first heard of Bookaroo when my lovely friend from Delhi told me how her daughters were enjoying the fest. Being a book worm and a mommy to a little book worm myself, my ears immediately perked up and I wanted to know all about it.

Last year, the festival was only held in Delhi, and us living in Mumbai weren't able to attend. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can visit Bookaroo to know more.

So this year, when it was announced that this hugely popular Children's Literature Festival was coming to Pune too, we immediately know where we would be on the weekend of 30th Nov - 01st Dec. Our daughter is 6 and she wanted to attend both the days of the fest. So we booked us all into a hotel near the venue.

We checked the site, got the details about venue and all and were all excited.

We did try a lot to find out the schedule, but even till 3 days before the event, the Pune schedule wasn't up (I don't know about the other cities as I didn't check those obviously) and we were waiting for a surprise. Whatever it would be, we knew it would be fun.

And then, the day before the event, we just clicked on the site once, randomly, and saw a small line that said that all registrations were closed as the events were booked already.

Now, this sounded weird, as I had not seen anything that mentioned that we had to register the children for the event. My friend, who works with one of the publishing houses, had also not heard of any 'registration' requirement. In fact, she told me that the one held in Delhi just the previous weekend had had no registration required. This was really getting weird.

I tried and tried to locate a number, but there was none where we could call. Many other parent friends had also planned the weekend trip to Pune with their kids, and it was suddenly beginning to look a sad and sorry affair. Even before our kids could actually experience the magic of Bookaroo, it was starting to leave a bad taste in the mouth.....And I must admit I was feeling pretty low...I just didn't know how to console my daughter who was waiting for some miracle to happen.

Finally, after some clicking here and there, I managed to reach the site for the organisers of the Pune event - Sakal. On their site, I was shocked to see, was the entire information for Bookaroo (while no such thing had been shared on the official Bookaroo site by the organisers). On reading the same, it seemed the organisers had clearly made it a deliberate attempt to try and make sure that only the Sakal subscribers could get to know about the event and attend the same (it's a Marathi newspaper).

I was miffed.

The site mentioned that you could only attend Bookaroo if you collected registered your kid and collected the passes from a Pune office! The organisers left no stone unturned to try and turn this into a Pune event, instead of a Maharashtra event.....or a Mumbai event even.....

It was sad....there was a Pune address and a Pune number and timings when parents could visit and get their kids registered...So, it clearly meant that if your child is in Mumbai, there is really no scope of attending Bookaroo....which is a shame, as many parents and kids couldn't go, only because of this unfair organising.

When we called up the organisers and told them they hadn't mentioned anything like this on the official site, they clearly told us that the site did say that registrations were open. But, if you had happened to read the site then, this line was written in such a way, that made it seem like it meant 'Registration was open for school groups' who wanted to attend. I asked this to all the other parents and they told me that this is exactly what it looked like, and hence they hadn't thought about any registration process to go through.

Also, if it was so clear, why did Sakal not mention the details they clearly spelled out on their site? Why did they limit all the necessary and important information only on their personal website and not on the Bookaroo website? 

We did manage a last-minute registration though. And we were told that only 1 more seat was left after that. If that was still the case, why did they declare registrations as closed on the site? They clearly took out the chance of 1 more kid attending the fest.

Now I'll tell you what I experienced at the fest:
While we were there, it was very clear that Sakal had deliberately done a registration thing. Most of the kids and parents who were attending the event seemed least interested. They were simply roaming around. It seemed like they were attending the fest as a 'come and enjoy the day' kind of an event, and not really a book or literature event. Most of these parents were disinterested in anything related to the event and were only there in groups, enjoying and chatting, their kids doing just the same. 

Of course there were kids and parents who were actually there for the book thing, but that was a very small ratio as compared to the general crowd.

It was clear that the Bookaroo Pune wasn't really happening in the spirit of Bookaroo, but more like a local event that was only in the tight reins of the local organiser.

It was a shame........

The next day we caught up with a few authors at breakfast (we were all staying in the same hotel) and when we told them about our experience, they mentioned that there was no registration in the Delhi event and it was a shame if this was actually the case. Our daughter, unfortunately, could not finally manage a Sunday entry, as again, the organisers said there were no passes. One of the authors told our daughter that she should attend the event, but when we told her about the passes thing, she was quite taken aback, and said it was a shame that this was happening at Bookaroo.

I wouldn't have brought this up otherwise, but doing something like this at a book event that's meant to be open to all kids is a shame. It actually ends up defeating the entire purpose of the fest and leaves a bad impression on the kid as well as the parents. I know for a fact that many kids lost out on the chance to visit this year, even though they were all set to do so....

Bookaroo should, in the future, take note of how the events are being organised....It's a sincere request from the parent of a book loving kid!

- Debolina Raja Gupta

And like I always believe in and say:
'Heal the world we live in
Save it for our children' - MJ
Happy Parenting!!!!

Be good to your little one, and to the millions of little ones out there who truly need every bit of love and compassion they can get.....Be a grown the little ones.... Debolina Raja Gupta
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