Saturday, February 21, 2009
during my last visit to kolkata,i did a few things that i would normally not have done.because it is always a rushed trip.meetings after meetings and then time to go the guest house and crash.i had a free weekend with me. like a child my eyes popped out with excitement.when i am in kolkata,i am on familiar ground.it is one of my comfort zones. i decided to prioritise my needs. visit to the beauty salon for a pedicure and manicure. and then to visit the boi-mela(book fair) held near 'sonar-bangla, the five-star itc hotel.one of the biggest book fairs in the world after frankfurt,london and paris. and scotland was one of the partner countries.every year a country is chosen as a focus country.last year it was usa.
known as the "intellectual city",kolkata attracts a huge number of visitors during this period.it is also saraswati pooja time.she is the goddess of learning.the weather is also excellent at this timeof the year.about 50-60,000 visitors come every day,many of them paying their second or third visits.totally about 20 to 25 lakh people visit the fair. it is the largest attended book fair in the world.starting mainly as a book fair 33 years ago, it is now broad based and includes art and cultural activities and food courts which is a major attraction.
the enthusiasm of the organisers motivated by the interest of the book-loving public is phenomenal.but the book- fair lacks infrastructure.the entrance was stinky,the whole area of the ground very unwalkable as it was muddy and slushy,the people- traffic poorly controlled,litter all around giving you a feeling of nausea only soothed by piping bengali music.rabindra sangeet and aadhunik bangla gaans.and outside the entrance it was chaos.motor traffic was out of control.wonder what impressions our scottish guests carried back with them. certainly not very pleasant memories.hopefully,these not very complicated issues will be addressed by the organisers and the annual event turned into a state of the art and world class book fair,kolkata can do it.
the signature tune "oi daakche boi"-the books are calling you, keeps reverberating in your ears when you leave.not only do you bond physically with the book- fair but emotionally too.i will come again,kolkata,next year. but do something to make it not only intellectually stimulating but hygienic and pleasing to the eyes and easy on the legs.