Just like ‘phuchkas’ are incomplete without the tok-jol’, similarly, Bengal is incomplete without the Kolkata Book Fair. Have you ever wondered why does Kolkatans and books have an ardent connection? With the rich cultural heritage and eminent poets and writers like Rabindranath Tagore who wrote the National anthem and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay who wrote Vande Mataram, West Bengal was introduced the country to a rich literary background centuries ago. The International Kolkata Book Fair takes forward that legacy.
From the time that the International Kolkata Book fair started in 1976, Kolkatans love the concept of the book fair and being surrounded by various books. Every year, the book fair offers something new for people on varied subjects, be it the theme or exclusive stalls. This year too, people have stepped into the 44th year of the International Kolkata Book Fair where you can read books of legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray, Rabindranath Tagore or classic children’s tales from all around the world.
What is it that makes the 44th International Book Fair so special for us? Is it the books or is there more to the fiesta? Here is a list of 5 things you cannot miss out on if you are planning a visit to this year’s book fair:
1. Handicrafts and rural artistry:
Did you miss out the Hasta Shilpa Mela at Eco Park this year? There is no need to worry. This year too, Kolkata has separate stalls where people from villages and towns can showcase all types of products. “We are enlightened to come here every year, because the book fair is not just about books now, but also highlights the culture of Bengal. This is done through our work which we carry here and sell. It is good to see people buying books and handmade products too”, says Shubhankar Debnath who has come from New Barrackpore to display his paintings. Not just for books, visit the book fair to catch a glimpse of various artistic paintings on canvas too.
2. Folk Baul Singers:
Want a taste of the famous Shantiniketan Baul and folk music? This year, the State Government has arranged for a special stage for folk songs. Get an eclectic feeling, when you see men and women clad in orange robes, with the ‘ektara’ and a ‘turban‘, which clearly defines typical Baul singers from Bolpur. If you want to read good books, catching a cup of hot tea or coffee sitting under a huge banyan tree, and listening to the splendid Baul music in the background, then Kolkata is definitely going to help you take you back to Shantiniketan, with a feel of urban touch.
3. The Russian Pavilion:
This is probably the most interesting stall to visit. Ever thought of visiting Russia and going through some ancient Russian books but couldn’t fulfil the dream? A Russian stall has been put up under the name ‘Read Russia’ which has books from Russia and various magazines from the country too. See a wall full of paintings which shows 100 years of Russian books illustrations in the form of wall graffiti.
“This is done to strengthen Russian and Indian ties. It is a good way to establish a Russian-Indian cultural exchange programme too. Russia-India Cultural Exchange(RICE) aims to establish good relations between Russia and India by promoting Russian Culture and the book fair is a platform to boost projects to help in creating a cultural exchange of ideas between both countries. Also visit stalls of other international countries like Guatemala, Peru and Australia. If you want a taste of a global forum within the city, this is the perfect place to get a taste of Russian culture and munch on some lip-smacking Guatemala pastries and cookies.
4. The Little Magazine Stall:
This has always been a prominent spot at the book fair. A stall without which the fair is incomplete. The Little Magazine stall showcases 192 magazine publications under one shed. “Maybe people do not buy our books always, but we love to come here and interact with so many new publications and publishers. However, there are people, who still love the smell of magazines and are ready to buy them. I really enjoy the cultural diversity that I find here. It is difficult to find such variety of books and magazines from across Bengal under one shed, anywhere except in Bengal”, says Sunita Das who has been coming here for the past 12 years.
The Little magazine stall is a mesmerizing place for ardent book-a-holics who also love to explore information in magazines. Come here to experience “Little Magazines” from across Bengal.
5. Food and Photography
Have an ardent love for photography and want to pursue it? The book fair gives an opportunity to enrol in ‘Photography Chorcha’, which is an institute near Barrackpore. As you enter this stall, you feel that you have left the book fair far behind and walked into a gallery. Some beautiful shots and photos are sure to catch your attention and leave you in a bewildered state thinking ‘Can amateur photographers be this good’? Starting from portraits to landscape views, to beautiful high definition photos, this stall has a gallery-like-effect on our minds indeed.
Let’s not forget about the food! The food park is an area within the book fair, where you can bump into one-two known faces! From stalls selling fish, prawns, momos and tea, you will not get a chance to visit each of these stalls within a few hours. So, make sure you finish visiting the bookstalls before reaching these yummylicious food hubs to fulfil your stomach’s wishes too!
In a nutshell, this year’s book fair is quite enticing and exciting for people across all age groups. It is a full day’s plan of a visit anytime between 28th of January- 9th of February. It is time to witness the mad rush and the crazy crowds but you cannot miss the experience of variety in diversity under one shed.