February 7, 2008

An Unfair Book

Many would love their life to resemble a favorite book but none would want a life akin to a book fair. A visit to the ongoing International Book Fair in Delhi gave me reason enough to believe that company of books doesn't really change anything.

For starters what's the point in having a book fair in many stalls put books only for display? Yeah, you heard me right. The stall of Israel had some nice books and I wanted to pick up one graphic novel but I learnt much to my horror that they were for display purpose. When I enquired where could one pick up a copy from, I was told by the nice lady manning the stall (no pun intended) that I could order them from amazon.com; she added 'it’s a website' for effect.

I can understand if you had the Ten Commandments autographed by Moses himself you’d put it on display but in absence of something spectacular why tease?

The partners for this book fair are our old friends, the friendly Russians. A visit to their rather huge and boring as hell stall should put all doubts about Russia still remaining a very large country in spite of its disintegration to rest.

The other main event of the fair was the stall on Mahatma Gandhi. The stall was a treat for the eyes and was laced with reprints of paintings of the Mahatma done by artists over the years. Perhaps we were pushing my luck when we asked where could one pick up a reprint from for we got the same answer- for display only. The move to put conceivably every book written on Gandhiji under one roof seemed to have worked for I decided to pick up a book called 'Gandhi in Cartoons'.

Same answer- the books were only for display.

By this time I'd had enough, so I decided to go over to a stall that actually sold something.

The problem with stalls that were in fact selling books as opposed to just displaying them was that they weren’t offering anything new or different. Most of the publishers had the old and refusing-to-move-stock for sale. My regular bookshop offers a better discount any time of the year. My grouse with the organizers is a simple one- why not offer something more than just a paltry 10% discount? Why not have a theme to the whole damn thing? Why not have a more detailed fair brochure and why on heavens price the only one for Rs. 250? And please why doens't anyone do something about international events at Pragati Maidan? Hand over the event to some private company and do something good while making money as well.

It was nice to see people picking up books by the dozen and the fair offered some interesting sights. Like this one seen at a stall selling law books.

But the one that took the cake was the sight of one corporate honcho, in a purple tie, picking up erotica from Random House stall and was in such a tearing hurry that he was willing to pick up double copies as well!

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