destination india

Friday, February 04, 2005

experiences in boi mela 1993

How was our experience that first time?

Well – it was a rewarding experience, to say the least. The three of us stayed in different parts of Kolkata – we had to assemble every day by 1.30 pm at the gate of the fair. One of us would, then, proceed to the stall to open the counters and hold fort till the other two joined. The other two, meanwhile, would distribute leaflets to the people who were waiting for tickets at the gate. We took it in turns. Advertisement is something that is very essential. The message had to go out. We had taken two types of advertising material with us. Single sheet pamphlets and folders. The folders we used to distribute to those who visited the stalls – leaflets to the people at the gate, waiting to purchase tickets and enter the fair grounds.

Our personal approach impressed the visitors. We were asked innumerable questions; the fact that modern day technology made it possible for printing any matter from any where was in itself a revelation to many.

The time, it must be remembered, was 1993 – a good 12 years back.

Language typing was just taking off – some reputed publishers had made a start. Those who could handle DTP work in the regional languages were gaining importance. Obviously, curiosity pulled most of the visitors to our stall. We did not have very many products to offer but, with whatever we did have, we built up a rapport of sorts with many persons. We met people who come to this mela regularly but do not stay in Kolkata. They were writers who reside elsewhere but who had publishers in Kolkata to look after their interests – hence, this annual pilgrimage. Yes, it was indeed a pilgrimage of sorts for those with a creative bent of mind.

And then there were the cultural programs. A golden chance to rub shoulders with those who have the power to visualize the extraordinary – yes, writers are no ordinary mortals. We missed out on them because, with only three of us to manage the complete show, we had to forego what normal visitors preferred – meeting real life authors, taking part in discussions, talking to them. But – the loss was made good by new contacts that we developed. We had a number of visitors, mostly Maharastrians residing in Kolkata, who came to our stall searching for Marathi books. When they discovered that we had brought Bengali books from Maharastra, they were disappointed. Then we had children asking whether we had books for them – unfortunately, we did not. That disappointed them also. In spite of so many disappointed visitors, we did have a large group of writers who wanted to become a part of our combine. They all wanted to write for our magazine – and, every day, they would come over, chit-chat and, while leaving, would hand over their poems or short story or essays. We had taken a bold step of setting sail in uncharted waters.

The theme for 1993 was Orissa.

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