Books are going to be celebrated yet
again. This time at the New Delhi World Book Fair - from Feb 25
till March 4, following closely on the heels of the Jaipur Lit
Fest (JLF) and the Kolkata Book Fair. The biennial book bonanza
organised by the National Book Trust at Pragati Maidan promises to
be bigger and better than before. My tip to you all: don't just
flock the big stalls.
Literature knows no boundaries and certainly cannot be confined to
a few. You will find hundreds of hidden treasures in the smaller
stalls. And if you are lucky, you may also run into a
knowledgeable and amenable publisher or bookseller there. And if
you are still luckier, a meaningful and fulfilling conversation
combined with a cup of tea may make your visit to the book fair
When it comes to literary specials, JLF is certainly the top of
the pops. Where else would you find globally acclaimed guru Deepak
Chopra standing in a half-a-mile-long queue? Where else would you
spot India Today group chief Aroon Purie pleading with guards who
are blocking the entrance to a hall, "Please let me go in, my
daughter is one of the speakers here"? And where else would you
see one of India's most well-known filmmakers, Shekhar Kapoor,
just lazing in the sun, may be secretly hoping that the world will
take notice while hardly anyone does.
For those of you who remember my last year's article "Confessions
of a Publisher Who Never Visits Jaipur Lit Fest", you will
probably have guessed by now that I stand converted - converted
into a JLF participant.
We launched our book, "Whispers in the Classroom, Voices on the
Field", edited by Richa Jha, at the fest. I turned a bit of a
lyricist and penned a song inspired by this book, making it the
first Indian book to have an independent song made for it. And I
got to soak in the literary jamboree.
JLF is a fascinating place, so fascinating that at times you don't
know what you are doing there. Most of the sessions are engaging,
but some have age-old lines like 'Write from your heart' thrown at
you. What next? 'Write with your pen'? Or better still,
'Keyboard'? But attending these sessions is an art by itself. If
you want to really sit down and participate in any of the popular
ones, you've got to be an early bird, or maybe even an angry bird.
It reminds you of the erstwhile British or American visa queues
where you even thought of taking packed aloo paranthas along. That
may have been just the right idea for an Oprah session. Or as I
overheard an angry bird telling her children, 'You got to push
your way through; otherwise you will never be able to do anything
in life.' Tiger Mom, eh?
Talking about moms, you could actually see them in huge numbers -
of all kinds and with all kinds of accompaniments - spouses, kids,
parents, friends or just by themselves. In fact, I think almost
65-70 percent of the visitors to JLF were of the fairer sex kinds.
Err, I mean the emotionally intellectual kinds.
At first, I felt it was just me noticing only what I am naturally
inclined to notice until I stopped and observed and counted and
confirmed. I could see three good-looking women for every ordinary
looking man. I am sure, after reading this, some changes in the
gender ratio are bound to happen at the next JLF!
It is said that whatever you think of India, the reverse is also
true. In this case, the paradox was just a stone's throw away from
the Lit Fest. The 'Dainik Bhaskar Pustak Mela' happening in its
shadows was an intriguing study in contrasts.
With Hari Om Sharan's bhajans playing in the background, tables
full of scattered books, booksellers sitting in the middle and
atop the pile of books and posters screaming "Pick any book for
Rs.10" or " Limited Stock Rs.99", it was a joy to find book-lovers
in reasonably good numbers there too. And when I found some of the
books published by us there as well, I knew I had done my job as a
Carrying forward last year's tradition, I must make a confession,
which is that I was more at home at the Pustak Mela than at the
Lit Fest. May be, I have always secretly dreamed to be that
bookseller sitting in the middle of the book pile.
At the New Delhi World Book Fair, if you spot somebody sitting in
a similar ambience, do stop by. It will be nice to meet you.
Shobit Arya is the
founder and publisher of Wisdom Tree. He can be contacted at
www.wisdomtreeindia.com and email@example.com