There is no friend as loyal as a book, said famous US writer Ernest Hemingway. With over 400 stalls offering a tempting variety of books, the ongoing book fair at the Exhibition Ground in Bhubaneswar is indeed a must-visit destination for all bibliophiles of Bhubaneswar. About 50,000 visitors have been thronging the fair every day, looking for a book they want or simply searching for a good bargain. Sunday POST interacted with some of them to know what the fair offers them.
“Books are the best things to sleep with. Be it hard bound, paperback or an e-book, the reader enters a fantasy world to find his/her favourite characters, landscapes and unparalleled timelines,” said Saqti Mohanty, writer of Ardhasatya and Casino, two novels that took the literary circuit by storm. “Many a time, books make us more imaginative. They consistently contribute to our knowledge and wisdom. These fairs are like a huge library where you can fish for your favourite books. New-age book fairs are more engaging with Lit-talks, meet the author events, dialogues with readers, poetry recitations, storytelling and a lot more happening. In shopping malls, whenever kids pick anything, parents keep saying no-no, but this never happens with the kids at a book fair.”
Mukul Mishra has been a regular visitor to the Bhubaneswar book fair for many years. The poet who has authored several books including Meghamana and Mayalagna said that book fairs had become integral to the cultural life of Odisha. She believes that regular book fairs across the state have knitted people together, smoothing over regional differences and disparities. Publishers showcase the works of authors rising above regional limitations.
“Large fairs such as the Frankfurt Book Fair or the Delhi Book Fair are global events of trade and commerce where book lovers may feel lost. It is in the small-town book fairs that the readers rule,” observed Mishra, adding that book fairs are going to be the open literary conventions of the future to combat the growing domination of the virtual world. However, she expressed disappointment that book fairs these days lack good children’s literature.
“For me, a book fair is a festival of creative minds, a unique occasion where the readers, writers and publishers get to share their thoughts. The release of books, poetry readings, book discussions and an opportunity to meet a galaxy of litterateurs are the main attractions of a book fair for me,” said Narmada Sahoo, a poet who has made a name for her anthologies Oasis, Shahe Avatara O Cinema Sundari and others.
She said reading is as essential for the mind as food, clothes and shelter are for the survival of a human being and added, “Books are the friends that bail us out from solitude. We feel the impact of reading not immediately but in the long run.”
Young poet Pranaya Sudha, author of Prajapatira Ghara, said that man used to interact earlier through sign language and then came stone inscriptions followed by scripts. Since then, he has been sharing his experiences through books.
“For me, a book is a world, a world of words that needs a pair of eyes to be explored. The book fair is like an annual salvation for me,” Pranaya said.
He, however, felt that the number of publishers, especially those from other states, at the fair is less this year. But there are sufficient books for the lovers of literature, he said.
People still turn up in large numbers every year at the book fair suggesting that the digital reading habit is not yet a threat to printed books.
Dr Upendra Kumar Jena, the president of the book fair committee, said he is happy to see an increasing number of book lovers frequenting the fair that began in the year 2000. This year, 100 stalls have been set aside for publishers from other states to offer the visitors more variety, he added. The book fair will end January 14.
BIJAY MANDAL, OP