The Kolkata International Book-Fair

Books- words etched on white pages, dreams weaved between the covers and thousands of stories beckoning to explore them. To me, books also mean nostalgia, the memories revive themselves surreptitiously whenever I stand in front of my bookshelf. The one with a slightly torn cover winks,” remember?”. Another with moth-eaten pages sighs, “you have forgotten”, the voluminous one from the topmost row calls out,”you spent three afternoons with me!” Yes, I remember them all, how can I forget my faithful companions, my books!

As a child, I was kind of an introvert having a very few friends. I didn’t like to play much and hence, most of my spare time was spent in solitude. It was then I discovered an inexhaustible source of happiness in the corner room of our house. There were four big shelves, all full of books from different genres. Not all of them were for children, in fact, most of them were not. It happened this way that I kept on caressing the pages without understanding a single word. But, somehow, the words were able to send a positive vibe through my fingers, whenever I touched them, I felt good, I felt happy.


Books for children, they were limited in our house and, soon the day arrived when there was none left. The Ladybird series, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Tuntunir Golpo, Thakurmar Jhuli, (and there was a Thakurdar Jhuli, too) Rush Desher Upakatha, all were gorged in a way we gulp down fuchkas! I was probably five or six years old at that time.

On a fine winter morning, when the dewdrops were resting leisurely on the bosom of the flowers, and, I was savouring a delectable breakfast of Joynagarer moya,(a special kind of laddu available in Kolkata during winter only) bread-butter and oranges, my father made an announcement. That we would be visiting a new kind of fair that afternoon. That was a thrilling news to me and though I hankered after to know which fair it would be, he kept on smiling making me mad with curiosity and anticipation.

And, the wait was worthy enough! I gazed at the myriad of banners and the large makeshift gates, they made me ecstatic and open-mouthed. So many books inside! Ah, the animated joy of witnessing millions of books at one place was no less than finding the Alibaba’s cave.

That was my first tryst with the Kolkata International Book Fair.

After that, it became a routine affair every year. Visiting the book-fair became the nitty-gritty of my life. The fair was held at the heart of Kolkata, the Maidan ground at that time. On entering, most of the times, a gust of dusty wind welcomed me, rows of bookstalls mesmerically waved and winked and allured me from every direction as I insisted on visiting each and every stall. Believe it or not, but I could hear the books singing the song of the Bhooter Raja in the film Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen; “aay aay kachhe aay”! (come closer)

Kolkata Book Fair

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The Kolkata Book Fair started its journey in the year 1976, with only 56 stalls and 34 publishers, now it boasts of being the largest one in Asia. The ambience, the attendees, the aroma, the aura- once you visit the fair, you’re sure to fall in love with it.

Kolkata, it is said, is the mecca of culture. One can see the culmination of culture and love for reading while visiting the Kolkata Book Fair. Not only acclaimed publishers, but the fair also showcases the little magazines since its inception. Now, the little magazines are provided with free space. The fair has a focal theme each year, showcasing a particular country. This year, the fair will be held from January 27 to February 7 with the Plurinational State of Bolivia as the focal theme country. Eminent writers, prestigious publishers, from all around the world adorn the Kolkata Book Fair. It is a festival to the Kolkatans. One should see the diasporic movement of the population towards the fair for 10 long days to believe it.

The fair now has been shifted to the periphery of the city, the Milan Mela Ground. On 2014, my Bengali poems were published in an anthology of different poets, the book was inaugurated at the Book Fair. A feeling so wonderful swept over me as I was standing on the podium…the same fair, the same smell of books, new and old…but it all felt different. There was a new kind of feeling, a new enchanting smell, the smell of loving nostalgia, living memories.

If you ever love reading, ever love the crispy, peppery smell of books, you should visit the Kolkata International Book Fair at least for once, so that you can live the memory, eternally.

Image Credit: here

79 responses to “The Kolkata International Book-Fair

  1. It would appear that we have something very much in common in our love of books. This was beautifully written. I especially liked the way you appeal to the reader’s senses; the smell of books is lovely to me, absolutely magical. I also like that your likened books to friends. I think you’ll like the last part of my story, but the next one is a little dark.
    It was truly a pleasure to read this post.

  2. This is indeed nostalgic Maniparna…I can relate every bit of your experience though only once I have visited the place couple of years back when I had the same chance as yours to launch my first book…indeed it was such a wonderful feeling. Standing on the podium and holding you own book, difficult to capture those emotions, for others it may not be big feeling. I had heard and read a lot about the Book Fair but never as rightly narrated had the privilege to feel the new book, smell the aroma of old books and experience the atmosphere that gets created with the creativity, energy, expectation and the feel good factor that keeps reverberating in each stall and from each face strolling the walks of book corridors…

    You forget the mention about the food not just the food for thought that is so tempting, you get everything and after those energy sapping walk and absorption of thoughts from the book, the tasty and not so healthy food does the trick to get us back on track…

    I loved the way you have built up the thoughts, by diving deep into your childhood and those memories are special and so nostalgic, yes in childhood we look for avenues to explore the world otherwise confined to the four walls of the house or the boundaries of the city we belong…it is these books that takes us into a different world and we fascinated by the places we visit and the people we meet in the book…

    I never knew you had published your poetry in an anthology, and that too in Bengali, never easy to write in our mother tongue, it needs proficiency…kudos to you…😀

    • Haha..right you are. The delicious but not-so-healthy food😀 Food has a great role to play in our life, and we get some special kind of street foods in such fairs which are otherwise not easily available elsewhere.
      Yes, the feeling of holding one’s own book for the first time is indeed a great feeling…happiness, wonderment, satisfaction…such myriad emotions.🙂

      I have a Bengali blog and, I write regularly in a Bengali magazine😀 A few poems and short stories have been published🙂

  3. Interesting to know that you are an introvert, didn’t figure you that way at all. Books are always the best company one can keep and the book fair sounds so good. I am missing those events badly now😦

    • Even I thought that I’ve gotten over my nature of being an introvert.😀 But, recently a conversation with Rakesh, a fellow blogger, opened my eyes…😛 I’m still an introvert…

      I missed this a lot when I was out of Kolkata for a few years…🙂

  4. Love the way you started this post … like a beautiful advertisement🙂

    The one with a slightly torn cover winks,” remember?”. Another with moth-eaten pages sighs, “you have forgotten”, the voluminous one from the topmost row calls out,”you spent three afternoons with me!”

  5. This sounds like a wonderful and exciting event, Maniparna. I like large book fairs and the city of Kolkata sounds amazing! When you go, I hope you take a friend or hisband. Be safe and enjoy!!🙂

  6. That’s ultimate bliss Mani🙂 getting your book released as part of a book fair you have been part of since childhood. Have heard loads abt the book fair from my Bengali friends .. Planning to be there soon

  7. I deeply share your love for books but I am afraid to go to book fairs for obvious reasons: I have run out of space for storing them. The way you have linked your childhood to books has given a special meaning to the post.

  8. Your post was indeed a walk down memory lane…been missing those book fairs due to preoccupations..time to get back and indulge and pamper myself, thanks for the inspiration:)

  9. Damn! I was all determined not to feel sad about missing Bookfair this year. I had almost fairly forgotten about how good it feels to be there. But now! I am almost chocking. Not fair.

  10. I haven’t been to book fairs. I am always in the library. As a child, I have wanted to buy books but slowly, the yearning reduced. For you, it must be bliss visiting these fairs.
    And congratulations on the anthology. I can imagine the feeling. The fair you have been a part of for so many years suddenly witnessing the launch of an anthology in which you are a part of.🙂 You deserve it Mani. You write so well as I always say🙂

    • Visiting the book fair is an experience!Millions of books..all many of them! One feels like Alice in the Bookland😀

      Thanks, Ranju🙂 Yes, it was really a very different feeling. Thanks for encouraging me, always….means a lot…🙂

  11. I could relate to almost everything you mentioned about books here with one difference. I’m still an introvert and still have more books than Friends. In fact, I have more friends in the virtual world than real. Not a fact to be proud of, but a fact nonetheless.

    I had a small library, which I had accumulated from the local raddiwala and some titles stolen from other libraries and also borrowed from other friends and never returned. I was quite shameless, you see. Well, they say that dishonesty never pays. One fine day my mom collected all the books and sold it to a raddiwala. That ended my career as a bibliophile. Now I collect books in my cellphone and dare anyone to steal. I can always download another.:/

    It’s a long time I’ve attended any book fair. I just loved this post, which was more nostalgic than about a book fair! Loved it!🙂

    • Hehehe…kitab aur phool chori ko chori nahi bolte…😛 I borrowed a book from one of my friends and deliberately forgot😀 She didn’t ask either, that was an added advantage.
      Well, I’m ..errrrr… a semi-introvert you can say, if that term actually exists😀

      Glad you liked the post, almost a rant though…🙂

      • There’s nothing called semi-introvert. It’s binary. Either you are or not. No mid-way. If you think you are semi-introvert, chances are you are an introvert. Because, an extrovert can never mistake themselves as introvert. Lemme give you an example:

        In a public gathering, where I don’t know anyone, I’ll just stay aloof, smile politely at anyone who cares and stay in a corner till someone whom I know arrives. Now, I’ll be totally transformed. Introverts don’t always clam up. They just don’t mix a lot easily. But, if they do, they are unstoppable. Simple reason, you see? All the wit and humor is bottled up and not sprayed around indiscriminately over all and sundry. So, the lucky few, who have the privilege to belong to the inner sanctum Santorum are inundated with it.

        My bet is that you are an introvert. In my long life, I’m yet to see an extrovert artist. They won’t have anything left to express, you see? Sab to already kar diya na!

    • Then, methinks I’m an introvert😛 The example of the public gathering is so me! Another thing, introvert persons are often misunderstood as haughty or high-browed. They find it difficult to mingle easily and, the reticence creates an air of indifferent aloofness.

      • Yes. I missed that part. Introverts are always considered haughty and arrogant. I’m finally tired of explaining everyone and now let everyone believe that I’m just too arrogant. Jane do. Kya bigaad lenge?

        In fact, now I like that I’m an introvert.🙂

  12. You took me back to my childhood days,with Tuntunir Golpo, Thakurmar Jhuli. etc. Also Joynagarer moya is so delicious…yummm. From the post it is obvious how eagerly you would be looking forward to the book fair, Enjoy!!🙂

  13. I love how you speak of your childhood and the life that books had for you. I cant even remember the titles – I think I inhaled rather than read books. What a wonderful world we were given between those pages. Thanks for sharing the beauty of the memories

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