While wondering in Milan mela ground, I have met a student of class X, Sanjeab Biswas of Behala, who echoed in response to my query – “Yes, I used to visit book fair every year along with my friends. I must buy some books this time round, but that is not on top of my agenda. What is important is to spend some quality time amidst the environment of new books. We wait year long for this book fair.”
A teenage girl, Arunima Saha of Salt Lake, a student of Bachelor of Architecture, expressed her feelings almost in same tune – “We used to come here to search life in the kingdom of books. Here we get convergence of blooming minds. Without Book fair Kolkata is incomplete. It is the festival of Kolkata.”
This is the signature tune of Kolkata, Bengali community and obliviously Kolkata International Book Fair. This year’s is the 37th edition in uninterrupted series which was previously known as Calcutta Book Fair. The unique feature of this KIBF is not the commercial aspects but its bonding with the masses. Kolkata International Book Fair occupies third position after Frankfurt Book Fair and London Book Fair in terms of accumulation of books. This Book Fair is common people or common reader oriented rather than leaning on wholesale distributors.
KIBF is credited with the record of highest number of visitors linked with book purchase in comparison to Book Fairs of the world. As per man counting machine, the 36th Kolkata International Book Fair 2012 witnessed a total attendance of 17 lakh visitors in 12 days. It is assumed that the total number of visitors may cross the 20 lakh mark in 2013.
Going with the International Book Fair calendar, KIBF lasts for 12 days. As per convention, Kolkata Book Fair starts on last Wednesday of January and come to an end in the first or second Sunday of February every year. This year, the fair was extended by four days and inaugurated on 26th January i.e Sunday to provide the readers and book sellers more access to 37th Kolkata Book Fair 2013 which was inaugurated by Prof Anisuji Aman, an eminent literary personality from Bangladesh, the theme country of this year’s book fair. Among others present in the inaugural ceremony were Mamata Bandopadhyay, Chief Minister of West Bengal, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Fiancé Minister of Bangladesh and eminent novelist Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay.
KIBF 13’s focal theme is Bangladesh with catch line “BOOK FOR AMITY”. The custom of focal theme was initiated in 1991 in Kolkata Book Fair through a Northeastern state – Assam.
It has been declared by the organizer, the Booksellers and Publishers Guild that focal theme of 38th Kolkata International Book Fair 2014 will be Peru. This year’s KIBF has been organized with active support of Govt of West Bengal. Altogether, 800 stalls are on display out of which all media houses of West Bengal, educational institutions, Universities loving publication wings, 15 foreign countries, publishers of different languages, diplomatic stalls of different countries, cultural and state govt stalls are included.
Among the participating countries are Japan, China, Great Britain, USA, European Union, Bangladesh, Peru and Romania. Among the North East, only Govt of Arunachal Pradesh has been participating in KIBF for two years in succession for coming under the ‘rare’ national media arch light. The Arunachal stall is being organised by the Directorate of Research.
From the list of participating countries, it has been revealed that three counties were selected twice – USA, France and Bangladesh. During the mela days, different workshops, seminars, literary meet, memorial lecture, book release function and musical tribute in open air stage are being organized to add extra flavour to the on-going book fair. This book fair is also a mobile rally of talents with many eminent personalities of different fields including players, actors, littérateurs and artists are participating in the multi-dimensional event, including Nobel laureate Amrata Sen, former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, Jogen Chowdhury, Amitava Mukherjee, Aparna Sen, Sharmila Tagore, Madhabi Chattopadhyay, Rahul Bose, Javed Akhtar, Nasrin Jahan of Bangladesh, Academi Award winners – Mahashweta Devi and Gaitry Chakraborty, Shashi Tharur and many more in the illustrious list which is getting extended everyday with the absence of Sunil Gangopadhyay is felt by all. A thick crowd is being witnessed in food court on the roads of mela premises, named after eminent literary personalities of Bengal. There are six halls for the publishes named in memory of iconic figures like Sunil Gangopadhyay, Syed Mujtaba Siraj, Humayan Ahmed (Bangladesh ), Pt Ravi Shankar besides Indira Goswami and Bhupen Hazarika.
For children there is a separate pavilion but the cynosure of Kolkata Book Fair is Little Magazine pavilion. In all, 195 tables are offered to each ‘little magazine’ group to display their literary volumes by some dedicated figures. Little magazines are considered as breeding field of rich Bengali literature which play an instrumental role as supply line of Bengali creative writings.
We have met a considerable number of visitors of different communities from Dhekiajuli, Tezpur, Silchar, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Guwahati (Assam), Agartala (Tripura) and Arunachal Pradesh. We have to overcome the shortcoming. More publishers from North East should participate in this largest Book Fair in the years to come which will be instrumental to bring the ethnic groups into close affinity. Could we not take sincere initiative to influence the Booksellers and Publishers Guild, the organizer of Kolkata International Book Fair to select Arunachal Pradesh as focal theme in near future? If it is translated into reality, than the cultural heritage of Arunachal Pradesh and its vast literary wealth in the form of oral literature could be focused in optimum level to the greater Indian mass and outer world for which Research Department have been making sincere endeavour through KIBF participation. It may contribute toward positive chain effect in different sectors of development. Because Kolkata Book Fair is not a mere fair it is a melting pot of different literature and cultural traits by and large. (The contributor is asstt director, Research (culture) and an avid sociologist.)