Every year when you visit the Bangla Academy area during the first few days of February, the place takes on a festive air with throngs of people making their way to the annual Ekushey Book Fair. The entire place is lined with book stalls displaying books from every major publisher in the country, catering to the tastes of absolutely every reader. As you walk in, you are greeted by street artists offering to paint a little something on your face or hands to commemorate the occasion. As you walk around the grounds, you come across little children and young people alike, sporting a bit of face art to add to festive mood of the setting.
This 2nd of February saw the inauguration of the Ekushey Book Fair for the year 2012. The place was packed with people. The line at the entry to the fair stretched to the end of the road to the Bangla Academy grounds. People from every age group could be seen, waiting to get inside and browse through the books that await them. The Ekushey Book fair has become one of the major cultural festivals for the Bangalis, a way to celebrate the rich and varied literature that our Bengali language boasts.
Every year, the Fair launches a host of books by various authors, both up and coming authors as well the established names. This year, it is reported that about 4,000 new books will be unveiled in the fair, while the number was 3,334 last year. 15 year old school student Audhora Kamrul was excited to arrive at the fair. She says, “I love coming to the Ekushey Book fair every year. My love of books makes this an event that I eagerly wait for every year. I have been coming here with my father since I was a little kid and I have loved it since then. ”
The Bangla Academy premises are transformed into a giant book store with stalls lining the entire area, stuffed with all kinds of books. The area plays host to every publisher in the country, each with their own stall to showcase the books that are on the market and being launches at the fair every day. A huge number of titles hit the book fair each day. The new arrivals include stories, novels, collection of essays, poetry, research books, books on child literature, five autobiographies, on the liberation war, dramas, books on science, translated titles, history books, science fictions and others.
The choice is endless. Seminars, symposiums and cultural functions are held every day on the academy stage wherein eminent litterateurs and academics take part. Information about new books will be displayed on large screens at the venue for the convenience of the visitors. Close to 630 stalls have been set up, allotted to 425 organisations and publishing houses. This year, the fair saw a rise in the number of visitors and the crowds seemed to just roll in.
The fair is an opportunity for book lovers, authors and intellectuals to congregate and share views, to have an opportunity to sample all the different types of books available in the market in one place, as well as meet ones literary heroes since the fair is a famous haunt for authors during this time. Kamran Islam, a student of Dhaka University, says, “The fair is a great place to just hang out with friends on an evening and may be buy a few books. It’s a lot of fun. Previously, I had the opportunity to run into some of my favourite authors. It is a thrill like no other to run into one your heroes while strolling through a fair!
I love reading and buying books, and for me this fair is a great celebration of that”. For Kashfia Quayum, a recent graduate from the English Department at North South University, this is her first time at the Book Fair and she seems to be enjoying it a lot. “I haven’t had a chance to visit the fair before. The last time I was here, I was just a kid and remember very little of it. This time, I am enjoying it a lot. It’s a great way to learn about the literature of my own country and gain knowledge on the reading trends when it comes to Bangla books. I bought a lot of books today.
Hopefully this will be the start of a great love affair between me and the literature of my mother tongue” Apart from the great collection of literature on display, the fair also hosts some of the more traditional treats such as street artists stationed outside the fair grounds, offering an opportunity to have your portrait done while you sit. The festive air around the grounds along with colorful stalls and knick knacks being sold here and there gives the fair an aura of a giant party that anyone is welcome to join. According to the book sellers this year, the sales seem to be on the rise.
They are hopeful that book sales will be much better this year since the crowds seems to be much bigger. Amongst the new arrivals, Samorik Shashoner Doshoke by Anu Muhammad, Prithibita Ke Kahar by Mohit Kamal, Chhotravonger Purbapor by Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Amra Kew Basai Nai by Humayun Ahmed, Ratuler Raat Ratuler Din by Muhammad Jafar Iqbal, Rabindranather Chitrashilpa by Ahmed Rafique, Stupid A Plus by Hafiz Al Faruque, Rochanabali (2nd part) by Sumsuzzaman Khan, Shrestha Kabita by Taslima Nasreen, Manush by Ismat Ara Eva are some of the prominent books.