“Of books and books, in a sea where the soul seeks to drown,
Of the dusty field and the old Maidan;
Of the memories preserved in the past,
It is the old Book Fair of Maidan”.
With the Kolkata Book Fair ending yesterday, like every year, this year too, memories have started to haunt me; tears have never done any good to me; so this time, I rejected them and took resort to the only thing I have, the only thing, I can give to the world : writing. Since the last eight years, I have been fighting with the change that had attacked the book fair; of course it has not been easy for me to accept the change, who is like a ‘ step mother’ to me ; yes the change : from venue to the name , from the scene to the scenario. I have always been sceptical about this new step mother even though, these days I am trying laboriously to accept her. People say , “Whaao … you are lucky”, when I reveal my identity of being the granddaughter of Late Sushil Mukhopadhyay, founder member and first president of Book Seller’s and Publisher’s Guild Kolkata. Don’t know about luck but book fair has been more than ‘ just’ a fair to me.
Growing up in a family where books are worshipped like idols, I was initiated into the cult of book lovers since I was a little girl ( I really don’t remember the time). Apart from my dadu ( maternal grandfather), the other person who has been my mentor, was my jyatha ( uncle ) : Late Souren Dutta. So, the Kolkata Book Fair was not just a matter of a few days to me; it was months of preparation and hard work for me as I saw the preparations from both sides : the organizers as well as the writers. Way back in the late 90s, when Facebook and Twitter were a near future, the writers and translators depended on these fairs as a platform to get known to the world. It was with this vision, my grandfather travelled to Germany and USA before finally creating this brain child. For the writers and translators, this fair would be the best part of the year and the same goes for book worms like me.
It would take months for the authorities to organize the event. The writers would work till late nights, giving their level best to write books which would get published in the Book Fair. A child I was, I would often keep on asking my jyatha , “ ki golpo likhcho ?” ( what are you writing? ) and he would say , “ pagli amar , darao boi melar jonyo likhchi. Likhe bolchi” . ( Oh, you little crazy child, wait, I am writing for the book fair. Will tell you once I am done). Those were the days when I simply preferred staring at him, writing, frequently attending phone calls of publishers as they increased with time. Having a book getting released in book fair used to be a matter of pride for all the authors. I still remember jyatha’s smile and excitement every year when he would come and show his book which was inaugurated at the Kolkata Book Fair. Yes, that was the happiness which I shared with him for I too became a part of his endeavours, often dreaming of the times we will write a book together. ( Alas!! God had other plans). It was the joy and the warmth of creation that graced his face and he made the little ‘ me’ , a part of it. I still remember how diligently he had translated three books of Joy Adamson and compiled them in one collection : Joy Adamson’s Rochona Shomogro which was published by Kamini Publishers. It was during these days of translation that he would tell me stories of Joy Adamson, stories of Elsa , the lion and would captivate me with his endless fantasies. But perhaps the greatest gift was when he gave me the book , I opened it and saw my name on the dedication page !! Yes, he has dedicated the book to me !!
With lachrymose childhood memories seeking attention, I contemplated upon the issue of going to the Kolkata Book Fair 2015. An invitation from a friend ( brother to be precise ) gave the green signal and I finally garnered the strength to attend his panel discussion at Press Corner on the grounds of Milan Mela where the Kolkata Book Fair was organized. The moment I stepped on the grounds of Milan Mela, the memories gushed out, leaving me in tears. Gulping down the pain, I managed to locate the venue, which, allayed by my luck, was pretty near the entrance. Trying my best every moment to fall in love with my new step mother, I sat , listening to the intriguing panel discussion, straining my ears , even from the second row, dejecting the Hindi songs like ‘ Lungi Dance’ which was being played outside and was audible enough to crack my ear drums.
I left soon after the event, with my boro mama, who did his best to take care of the little girl who was crying restlessly under the veil of a young lady trying to accept the change. I didn’t expect anything from the Book Fair but yes, the incident was quite disheartening. I tried my best to ignore the people gorging upon food , leaving the empty book stalls aside but loud music of commercial Hindi songs being played beside Press Corner is an act which should be condemned. My words have left me for they have no wish to sacrifice themselves to the rancid images of Kolkata Book Fair 2015. Perhaps, I am still not ready too and perhaps , I too should keep the little girl sleep in peace within me. The stars are watching as the girl runs on the grounds of Maidan, holding the hands of her jyatha and saying , “ jyatha, ami ei boi ta kinbo !! (jyatha, I want to buy this book) “