Calcutta's love for books

In today’s digital world, people are fast breaking their relationships with books and building new ones with other, more technologically advanced media. Every day, with new leaps in innovative methods of communication, people leave books further behind.

This trend is very disturbing to those of us who have grown up with the sensory pleasure of reading a physical book. While books retain their importance in some functional domains such as education, in others they have been almost totally discarded. One way of combating this disaster is by holding book fairs, the most famous being in Hamburg. The Calcutta book fair is the second biggest book fair in the world after Hamburg in terms of the number of visitors it attracts.

The Book Fair is organised by a guild of publishers and booksellers and it is a vibrant affair, the fields buzzing with excitement that the fair unerringly creates every year. It attracts a footfall of more than two hundred thousand visitors every day and all these people are found to be hovering around, going from stall to stall laden with packets of books in their arms.

Booksellers and publishers find different ways of attracting customers and their efforts add even more colour to the fair. Some stalls hire personnel to stand outside them and advertise the books available in their stalls. Others give their stalls strange shapes such as busses and cars, cathedrals and temples, famous monuments and the like.

Every year, the Book Fair showcases a particular country and generally, the embassies and high commissions are fully involved in the displays. The theme stall in the centre of the fair is shaped to evoke the spirit of the country in focus and inside, people can view and buy books and objects that define the particular nation and culture.

Visiting the Book Fair and seeing the number of people swarming about the place in search of books is a sight of sheer joy, especially if you are one of the thousand book lovers in search of something good to read. The Book Fair shows us that all hope is not lost and that books retain their importance in society even today.

When the Book Fair is on, the Calcuttan's dream-world of book-induced magic seems real. Calcutta's love affair with books is not, however, limited to the 12 days of the Book Fair. For the other 353 days of the year, we have College Street--an entire North Calcutta artery lined on both sides by stalls full of new and used books. Some rare gems can be found in these nondescript sidewalk stores!


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