For a city of booklovers, what better than a book fair in town? Well, the annual occasion has come by once again, the 39th International Kolkata Book Fair. It began yesterday with a grand opening, in the presence of several dignitaries, including the British journalist and TV news presenter, Anita Anand. The 39th fair has United Kingdom as the theme country. Lauding Indian authors and their popularity among the British audiences, Ms Anand said Bengal had an “unshakeable foundation of literature.” The fair will continue till February 8.
For many, the Book Fair is almost a pilgrimage, books being the ultimate gods. The love of books and literature, of every kind, is one of the aspects that make Kolkata unique among Indian cities, and that never fails to draw fulsome praise, both from Indians and foreigners.
NOT JUST A BOOK FAIR
The International Kolkata Book Fair was started way back in 1976 in the vast green expanse of the Maidan (the moniker ‘International’ was added only recently, though in terms of the books available, it has always been as international as it can be) to enable people to sample and buy the best of international and Indian books.
Well, that was the aim, but it has always been much more than that. A place for people to meet and greet, a place to indulge in wholesome adda, literary and otherwise, a place to enjoy cultural programmes, a place where you’ll find groups of people, often students, gather to belt out wonderful songs (with a mandatory guitarist in place), a place where small-time artists lay out their artworks on the ground to sell (for a price, many will draw your portraits as well, and they are really good at it!); or, you can just wander, marvelling at the thousands milling around, wondering at and pondering on the literary fare at hand. Of course, how can one not mention the food stalls, considering the foodie’s paradise that Kolkata is. The flavours wafting all over the place almost seem to egg on the book-lover in us. The Book Fair can easily be described as a melting pot of sorts.
KOLKATA LITERATURE FESTIVAL
In recent years, a few additions have been made to make the Kolkata Book Fair even better. For one, the last few years has seen the organization of the Kolkata Literature Festival (KLF). This time, it is being organized from February 6 to February 8. Some well-known people from the world of literature of literature, both Indian and foreign, would gather to discuss various aspects of their writing. Music and dance have been thrown in as well to liven up the place. After all, this is Kolkata.
Find Kolkata Literature Festival on Facebook too.
BOOK FAIR APP
Another addition has been the release of an Android app. The app is called ‘Kolkata Book Fair 2015.’ Site maps have always been available on the grounds, but in the age of smartphones, a good interactive app is what many look for. The app has been developed by the private power utility, CESC.
According to Abhijit Ghosh of CESC, “The app can be accessed from a mobile phone or a tablet and will offer the route maps from one point of the fair to the desired book stall. One can also locate utility areas like the food court, restrooms, administrative buildings etc. using the app.”
The app can be downloaded from Google Play for Android.
The app logo
The National Stock Exchange (NSE) is participating in the International
Kolkata Book Fair this year for spreading awareness about capital trading.
Investors will be advised on their rights and obligations and will be
made aware of products like Nifty exchange-traded funds, through which
it is possible for retail investors to invest small amounts at a time
and get good long term returns. Officials will also interact with the
visitors to make them aware about the precautions they should take while
trading. NSE officials will conduct quiz shows to engage with the
visitors and provide information on key topics like financial planning
and financial products. Prizes will also be given on the spot at regular
THE LARGEST AND THE BEST
The International Kolkata Book Fair is the world’s largest non-trade book fair. It is also Asia’s largest book fair and the most attended book fair in the world. There are other bigger book fairs (the Frankfurt Book Fair being the world’s biggest), but they are aimed at publishers, a place where they can come and check out books and strike deals. Kolkata Book Fair has always been for the masses. It is the people, from all strata of society, who have defined the character of the fair. To enable greater participation, for the last few years, the entry ticket has also been done away with.
A unique aspect of the Book Fair is the theme country: every year a country is chosen as the theme country. Books from that country are displayed and sold, famous authors and other personalities from that country come and participate in various programmes, and often cultural programmes of that country are organised. The theme country part has been a part of the Book Fair for a long time, and thanks to this, visitors have had the chance to see, hear and interact with famous people from various countries.
In 2015, that theme country is United Kingdom (UK). United Kingdom will be showcasing the best of what it has to offer in arts and culture, education and research through the government’s GREAT campaign, which includes information on a huge range of scholarships available for studying in the UK.
There will be a range of activities at the fair including sessions with contemporary authors and artistes. English language experts and top speakers from the UK’s Higher Education sector will also be at the fair. Workshops, seminars and panel discussions will be held around English and higher education.
Renowned British personality, Zia Haider Rahman, a British novelist of Bangladeshi origin, will deliver the Ashoke Kumar Sarkar International Memorial Lecture.
A special segment will also be there, celebrating Shakespeare's 450th birth anniversary and the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas' 100th birth anniversary.
Shakespeare (left), Dylan Thomas (Sources: biography.com)
IMPORTANT EVENTS OF THE 39TH INTERNATIONAL KOLKATA BOOK FAIR 2015
- 4 pm, SBI Auditorium – Inauguration ceremony
- Followed by a performance by Ghazalaw (a team of six singers and musicians led by Mumbai singer, Tauseef Akhtar and Welsh singer-songwriter, Gwyneth Glyn, presenting a blend of the two ancient traditions, Indian and Welsh)
- 3.15 pm, SBI Auditorium – Interactive session with Anita Anand
- 5.45 pm, SBI Auditorium – In conversation with Shereen El Feki
- 4:30 pm, SBI Auditorium – Ashoke Kumar Sarkar Memorial Lecture by Zia Haider Rahman, novelist (Topic: Freedom of Expression)
- Bangladesh Day
- 4.30 pm, SBI Auditorium – Screening of the film, The Auction House.
- Followed by a discussion by its director, Ed Owles and the British Deputy High Commissioner, Scott F Wood
- 7 pm, SBI Auditorium – Musical performance by Surojit (of Bhoomi fame)
- 7 pm, SBI Auditorium – Bogola Charit Manas, a Badal Sarkar play, to be staged by CFD, Bangalore
- Children's Day: Special programme at SBI Auditorium at 3.15 pm
- 2 pm, SBI Auditorium – In conversation, Viviene Baumfield with Sanjib Chattopadhyay
- 4.30 pm, SBI Auditorium – In conversation, Bill Herbert with Srijato and Amit Chaudhuri
- 7 pm, SBI Auditorium – Musical performance by Santanu Roychowdhury & Nabanita Roychowdhury
- 4.30 pm, SBI Auditorium – Prize distribution ceremony
- 5:45 pm, SBI Auditorium – Musical performance by Debojit Bandyopadhyay & Ridhhi Bandyopadyay
- 7 pm, SBI Auditorium – ‘Biswacup-er adda,’ with Sourav Ganguly
February 6 – 8: KOLKATA LITERATURE FESTIVAL
- 5.45 pm, Press Corner – In conversation with Tracy Irish
- 8:30pm – Closing ceremony
Kolkata’s literary appetite can be never-ending. Books fairs are organised all through the year in different corners of the metropolis. But the International Kolkata Book Fair is the king of them all, drawing people from all corners of the city and beyond (sometimes far beyond) to the Milan Mela fairground every winter. Someone had said, religion is the opium of the masses; in Kolkata, one can easily say, books are the opium of the masses.
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv