Sunday, February 2, 2014

Book fair 2014 and some nostalgia

Book fair has lost it's charm for me. I came here for some work but then my friends were late so I entered and walked around to see if I could get back my years and years of stored up nostalgia. I didn't. I didn't feel anything. I don't feel excitement at seeing so many stalls; I don't feel any kind of joy that I have felt earlier. 

Today. there are so many more avenues for me to buy books. There's flipkart. And family friends with bookstores who give you discount throughout the year. And the annual British Council sale where you get books dirt cheap, literally. The book fair does not offer me something new, something different.

The premises are huge, ofcourse. It's held at Milan Mela. Which is bang opposite science city and ITC sonar bangla Hotel. So, pretty accessible location. A huge crowd of people are here. It's a big thing here; not as big as Durga Puja but it's still a pretty big deal in Calcutta. It's also become a touristy picnic-y thing to do. And people in Calcutta are generally book lovers. Well, most bongs are (sorry for the stereotyping ) 

I saw most known publishers and my eyes lit up when I spotted my favourite HarperCollins. I entered their stall and browsed through the collection. 

I don't remember what time it used to open when I used to go as a kid with my parents but it's 12.45 now and many stalls are still closed. I wanted to enter Penguin but it was closed. 

I started with Hall 2. I saw  Oxford and entered. The feel and the look of the stall was the same as their Park Street store and yes they had a pretty good collection of Bengali literature which was surprising. Looking at books still gives a lot of joy and while glancing through the books I came across the new Harry Potter covers. 

Meanwhile my friends had arrived so I went back to the entrance. We did some pamphlet-ing ( maybe another blog post). They left at 3.30 and I decided to stay on for more exploring. 

I entered one of the halls, desperate to get the feel of the book fair. Finding nothing interesting, I exited.

There are food stalls scattered everywhere; offering the normal fare- chinese, biryani, chap, rolls. Not as cheap as the usual street food but not very expensive. (We Calcuttans want everything to be dirt cheap, you see.) Pocket friendly. Ofcourse, coffee and tea seemed expensive to me (15 bucks! For a small cup!)

There are some hawkers too, with photo frames and greeting cards. Another interesting aspect I found was a t-shirt painter and a portrait artist. Both had set up their stalls and were working on their respective subjects. A new sight at the book fair.

Book fair also hosts interactive sessions and speakers from various fields. Many people attend that. I have never been to one so can't really comment on it.

One stall that interested me was the Wikepedia stall. They had tiny little corner where they were promoting Bengali as a language for wiki articles. They were explaining to those who walked in, the whole process of writing/editing articles in Bengali. One could even register for mailers or something (didn't really get what!?) I somehow ended up registering. I was disappointed that they didn't offer any merchandise. 

Chowringhee High School had taken up the Garbage free India initiative and some of the students were walking around with placards, picking up garbage. I spoke to them and they showed great enthusiasm for the cause. Such motivation among schoolkids gives me hope. 

There seemed to be no stall for medical help of any sort. Which is a mistake. With such big premises and such a huge crowd, there is a need for medical help. The government had provided free water though, which was a big plus. 

 Bookfair is definitely book lovers paradise. specially if you don't have other avenues to get a discount. I would recommend it to everyone; even if you don't read. It is an experience to be cherished. 

For detailed info about stalls, participants, schedules and archives you can check out their site here

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