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Notes from the book fair

I could only go to the Kolkata Book Fair that ended yesterday... well yesterday.  I had made promises to myself and the husband that I will just go and look. I believed in my promise earnestly whereas he gave me the all-knowing smile and the nod of head which when I later ruminated over was meant to convey 'yes, yes we will see'.

Anyway, there I was at the book fair sans the husband and the child. I entered the grounds with the stroll of someone who was on no agenda and was free to turn back and go any moment. Instead (and I do not really know how it happened) I spent around four hours bought 12 books of various size, colour, shape and subject.

I did not realise when that aimless stroll of mine gained purpose. Maybe it was the need to cover every possible hall and stall or maybe it was the intention of checking out all the offers of the last day. I got drawn in by the books would be an understatement. I should probably say I was under the spell. This does not mean I regret buying the books that I bought. These ranged from Nora Roberts to Dushyant Kumar to Ismat Chugtai to Moni Mohsin. My lovelies accompanied me back along with a few children's books which I told myself would come in handy as gifts and other as practice books for Netra.

On my way back I was reminded of the look on the husband's face. I smiled knowing that maybe I also knew when I promised that my heart was not in it- the promise. In retrospect I began to think about the takeaways, other than the books, from the fair. Here are a few for the serious pursuer of the printed word at the fair:

Children's Book Trust: Look at the pamphlets and look at the boards giving you directions. If any of it points towards the CBT stall and you have a kid/s, GO to them before you go to any of the known publishers and book sellers. The books are lovely, cheap and there is a wide range on offer. Benita Sen from TARGET writes for them. Here the books were available in Hindi, English and Bangla. There are new-age stories like the Feet Problem, old stories like Panchtantra and 'Gold' collections of stories from other parts of the country and world.

Reading list: The reading list should be made. If you are just going to the fair to check out things, it is another matter entirely. But if you are there and mean business, aka saving some money, the book fair is the right place, Mostly everyone- booksellers as well as publishers- will offer a minimum of a 10 per cent off. if you want better, wait till the last day when the offers become slightly better. If you do have a reading list, finding the publisher will also stand you in good stead. You can head straight to their stall and take your picks before you have finished your moneys. The only danger is that if you wait till the last day (for the discounts to get bigger), 'the book' might be snapped already. It happened with many lovers of  'Madhushala' who came inquiring after it in couple of Hindi book sellers stalls where I was camping for the better half of my day.

Gems: Every fair of any nature will hold them. Hidden at times in the nooks where no one would bother come looking and at others lost amidst the loudness of the known names. So is true for the book fair. It will have those publishers or sellers whose name you might have never heard but who will yield conversations, nuggets and histories. I found one at the far end of the Science City grounds. A Hindi book seller from Bada Bazar. They had possibly every author and his most of the works displayed neatly in rows. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Indira Goswami, Shivani, Manto, Amrita Pritam, Nirala; ghazals, poems, short stories, biographies and autobiographies, novels; hard bound  as well as paper backs. But I think the owner was the real find. You picked up a book and he had story about the writer. He told me how Dushyant was jailed and what saved Nagarjun from Mrs Gandhi's wrath. He sang from Madhushala and quoted Subhadra Kumari Chauhan. It was a delight. Pure delight.

Roam: Of course, you will, I know, but have a good breakfast and get a good night's sleep the night before hand so that you do not get tired or are lured away by the chicken lollipops and green grass. Also carry your own water, may be something to chew on as well. All the walking around will make you hungry, tired and if you do not look after yourself who will? Only if you are energetic enough to roam will you find the gems or come across fantastic offers.

Be a little mindless in your roaming. Be a little adventurous. Sneak a look at the authors' picture. Read a page or two of the story to see if it makes friends with you easily. Look at the print carefully. Feel the paper between your fingers. Smell the book. Run your hand on the cover. Thumb a few pages. Take home if not the book, then the amazing sense of having been surrounded with various worlds enclosed within those books


Neha Kalra said…
Good one Amu! Informative and I like your conversational tone..
Supriya Jain said…
Awesomeee..!! :D
It was like you narrating exactly what I feel at a book fair. Lot of fun..!
amu said…
Neha didi, thank you for dropping by and good to know that you liked it.

Supriya: :D

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