Kolkata: From the stands, at a popular English stall in the book fair, in a strikingly good typeset, flickered the name, Shobhaa De. And soon the ambience of the book fair enclosed the inner senses. This time, I decided to move out of the house, spare the laptop and visit the place for a sort of ground reporting. And I returned soon after, gathering loads, deciding to write for Youth Ki Awaaz.
(Maximum coverage of the event was intended)
The entry was smooth, the arrangement was fair enough; contrary to reports of inappropriate preparations that did the rounds before the 34th Kolkata International Book Fair commenced. As our Chevrolet Spark made its way slickly into the parking lot, we made our way into the fair. The Milan Mela looked quite packed and busy with lots of people here and there at 1 PM. This year the notable feature was the stall by Starmark, which pulled the maximum crowd and proved to be a hit. Asiatic Society kept up to its reputation of being scholarly, and other publishing houses were hardly crammed but impressive as usual.
Books and quality went hand in hand this time. The stall proffered by Calcutta Journalist Club was a crowd puller and many aspiring journalists and others gathered around the stall. Demand for books was high. Starmark presented its best collection perhaps, from religious to fiction to bargains to development. The stall put up by the British Council Library was spick and span, and had that posh touch to it; the American Library booth had more leaflets, pamphlets and men than books though. Mexico, as was known, was the central theme. As soon as one entered the stall, one could be sure of being greeted by customary Mexican bands, and booklets containing Mexican details. The books were completely in the Mexican language and little or almost no knowledge in the latter forced me to allow myself only a modest time there.
The littering was immensely under control, at least better than previous years. The food stalls were teeming with young men and women who found respite there. Arambagh and Haldirams’ were the prominent food stall suppliers. Among media houses, apart from the press galore that came to cover the event, Kolkata TV, Tara and Chobbissh Ghanta were the Bengali news channels that had stalls pitched for themselves with the intention to hold some eventful gathering and charm the crowd. “I should have come earlier because there is so much to see and take pleasure in that I doubt I will be able to complete”, sighed one of the visitor, whom I asked how her experience so far had been. Rupa and Co publishers put up a huge stall with an even bigger photo of Chetan Bhagat flaunted right at the center of the front side of the stall. The purpose was clearly to attract the crowd to arguably the leading author of India today. However, a good publicity and marketing strategy had somewhat fallen short since the stiff competition from a neighborhood celebrated Bengali publishing house was too hard to confront.
It is advisable to carry water as dehydration should not be allowed to impede the interest in books, since the fascination would be natural once Kolkata Int’l Book Fair is entered.
The writer is a correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz.