Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Finally - the World Book Fair 2015!

Sometimes it's hard to believe I've been writing for the last five years. Yes, that's how old my blog becomes on the 28th of this month. And to think I've been reading for more than 4 times as many years - it's surreal. The very sight, touch and smell of a book in my hand is like opium in the hands of an addict. I cannot imagine my life without books. I'd literally be lost. And yet, the most embarrassing and unimaginable fact about this whole lifetime of reading and writing is that I haven't been to the World Book Fair even once. You read that right. Not once. I once visited the Delhi Book Fair, though, but that doesn't count, because it lacked the charm of an international book fair. The world book fair kept eluding me every year - most of the times I'd have exams, at other times I'd have to be somewhere else. But all that is in the past now. 

Because I finally got to pay my obeisance at the World Book Fair 2015 yesterday - the last day of the event, no less. There were books and only books everywhere I could see. A lot of book lovers and fellow fanatics like me too, which made it totally my kind of social gathering. And it was pure, unadulterated fun.

I visited many different publishers' stalls and drooled over many books. But try as I might to control my urges, I always found myself gravitating towards the 'classics' section, be it at Penguin, Harper Collins or Jaico. There's just something these classic works had that modern day writers can simply not recreate or imitate, no matter how they try. They cannot paint a faithful picture of the past the way writers like Jane Austen, Anton Chekhov or Charles Dickens could. And that's what makes them a separate league of their own. I am a fan of the classics, though I appreciate contemporary writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh almost as much. On the contrary I have a cousin who reads only classics and considers modern Indian writing pointless and worthless. I hope to be able to sway him someday.

Now for the last six months of so, I've been on a self-imposed moratorium from buying any more books. I already have at home two shelves full of the most amazing books lying unread, gathering dust. I haven't been able to finish even two books in their entirety in the three months that have gone by since my upsc main exams got over. One might wonder, what for did I visit the book fair then? But I'm sure book-lovers would understand - the very sight of so many books at one place, not to mention stationery, food and the rare prospect of meeting a writer or two if luck allows, is enough for a book-lover to go running to the book fair, come storm or snow. In my case, the moratorium didn't last very long either. Despite restraining myself to the best of my ability, I ended up buying three books that emptied out my pockets for good. But I had my reasons for each of the purchases, your honour, if you would please let me explain:

Because I gifted my most beloved copy of this most beloved novel to a no-less-beloved friend of mine a couple of years ago. And I cannot have a bookcase without a copy of PnP in it, can I?
(Read my review of this book here.)

Because I have a record of sorts - for having read all of the Man Booker prize-winning Indian and Indian-origin authors' books. I have read Kiran Desai, Arundhati Roy, Aravind Adiga and Salman Rushdie (British-Indian). The only one left on the list is Sir V S Naipaul, the tempestuous and controversy-courting novelist from Trinidad and Tobago (but with an Indian father). So here we go.

Because I aspire to start my writing career with a short story collection. For that I need to hone my skills, and who better than the greatest masters of the art to learn and get inspired from?

One of the rare occasions when yours truly gets clicked and decides to upload the result on the blog as well. Enjoy the rare sighting.

And the mandatory murder of the English language without which a local Indian food menu would simply be incomplete. "Bolls" totally takes the cake.

With such a title and cover picture, why the heck not? Let's buy it.

Thank God for my camera, or else I'd have ended up buying books until my debit card and pocket were emptied of all my life's savings. Believe it or not, I did use up all the cash I had and went searching for an ATM all around the Pragati Maidan premises (which by any given standard are huge) in the sweltering heat. Fortunately or unfortunately, the ATM I eventually found out was not functional and the nearest functional one was at the metro station a kilometre away. So I had to be content with whatever I'd got so far. There was a  notebook they were selling at the Roli Books stall on which you could get your name stamped. For sheer lack of handy cash, I missed out on getting one for myself - and that remains the only regret I have. Otherwise the day went perfectly. I had a great time with my (highly irritating but awesome) best friend. We browsed, we bought, we ate, we laughed and we chatted till sundown. 

I hope this was a precursor to the many more visits I'm going to make to the world book fair in the years to come. Hopefully someday, one of my own books will grace the shelves at the fair and I'll be attending as an author and not a mere reader. Amen to that!

P.S. It was heartening to see a lot of parents and kids at the book fair. The children's sections at all the stalls were jam-packed! It was good to be thus assured that the practice of reading books isn't getting replaced by other distractions like gadgets, gaming and social media anytime soon. Parents still recognize the importance of books in a child's life and their growing up process. Cheers to such wise parents, and to their lucky kids!

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