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Monday, January 24, 2005

kolkata book fair

A Fair is a large gathering of people who come to patronize it since it is mainly a medium for relaxation – it gives an opportunity to them to mingle with newcomers on the scene, with old timers who are ever ready with their advice (it is one of the cheapest commodities in the market!), with hardcore business persons, with novices who are trying to get a toehold, with opportunists, with those who would be better off behind bars.

A Fair has also to have nooks and corners where patrons can satisfy their pangs of hunger – there have to be stalls for eateries, snacks. Some of them cater to the high flyers, some to the commoners.

A Fair must also provide chances to all and sundry to brush up on the latest, to pick up bits and pieces of information laced with juicy incidents which will, subsequently, spice up the tea parties or kitty parties or prove some points for discussion during the lunch breaks.

A Fair is like a large scale novel – there has to be a beginning that may be slow. As time progresses, situations keep on getting added and they all go to build up the climax to create a magnum opus. As the Fair draws to a close, all concerned sigh and close the book. A good read, some will say. Deserves to be criticized, others will say. And, debates will rage … in the Press, in the Electronic media. No one would want to be left out. After all they all had some contribution or the other.

The Kolkata Book Fair (also known as the Kolkata Boi Mela) is all that and much more. ‘Boi’ in Bengali means ‘book’ and ‘mela’ is ‘fair’.

Conceived by the Publishers and Booksellers Guild way back in 1975, it started off with only 14 members and organized the 1st ever fair in 1976. It was inaugurated by the then Governor of West Bengal Sri A. L. Dias.

The 30th Kolkata Book Fair will be held this year from 25th January to 6th February 2005. The theme is France. Jean Claude Carrier, the noted French cartoonist, novelist, actor, director and screen writer will deliver the Ashok Sarkar Memorial lecture on the 31st January. Gunter Grass will also grace the occasion – he is expected to arrive in the city on 24th January and will join in an adda (informal one-to-one discussion forum) on 28th January in the fair premises with fellow writers and critics.

This year, an innovative gift coupon scheme is proposed to be introduced. Visitors can purchase these coupons and gift them to near and dear ones, who can, in turn, exchange them for their favorite books. Also, e-books will be on display in the form of CDs. The fair last year had 2.2 million visitors and this figure will certainly go up. In the last 30 years, only once in 1997, there was the incident of fire in the fair which caused considerable damage. Hence, nowadays, insuring the books is mandatory. Restrictions have also been imposed on open furnaces in the fair premises.

(to be continued…)

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