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    Volume 9 Issue 7 | February 12, 2010|

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A Slow Start

Elita Karim
Photos: Zahedul I Khan

The usual scene at the Ekushey Granthmela is of hordes of people flocking their way towards the fair and lining up in front of the bookstalls. The grime and dust, accompanied by spring, crowds of people fighting to be the first one to grab the latest Humayan Ahmed novel and the maze-like roadways making it almost impossible for someone to locate his or her desired book stall, does not stop the book lover from fighting the sea of people and purchasing bags full of novels, translations and autobiographies.

This year, however, publishers say that the book fair did not pick up well in terms of sales or visitors right at the beginning of the month. “I have no idea why the fair this year has had a very delayed response,” wonders Mohammad Shahdat Hussain, owner of Onnesha publications. “The first two days were slightly disappointing, because not many visitors were visiting the stall. Almost all the publishers at the fair were disheartened and a little confused as well.” However, both the crowd and the sales picked up quite well once the weekend strolled in. All kinds of books, especially children's books became popular over the first weekend after the beginning of the book fair.

The Onnesha stall, which customarily attracts a lot of young readers, especially the Humayan Ahmed fans, was seen selling Kishore Golpo: Rakhosh, Kokhosh ebong Bhokhosh, like hot cakes, written by the famous Humayan Ahmed for young readers. Yet another Humayan Ahmed novel, which is to be launched by Onnesha this weekend, is Rupa.

Jahar Lal Saha, the owner of Muktadhara publications, has lots of reasons to be happy this year. Firstly, the Bangla Academy decided to begin the Chittranjan Saha Awards from this year, in memory of Chittranjan Saha, who created his own revolution after the liberation war by paving the pathway for the formation of the book fair, with Muktadhara. “This year, only those publishers will be considered to be participating in the competition who have had publications out between January 2009 and December 2009,” explains Saha. “The award will be given to one publication house, depending on production and quality.” Secondly, this year, Muktadhara was kept out of the yearly lottery system, used to allot stalls to publishers. “Honouring Chittranjan Saha once again, the Academy gave us stall numbers 1 and 2, right next to the Nazrul Mancha,” says Saha. “Now it will be very easy for the readers to find our stalls.”

Saha also voices the other publishers and says that it took a slight push for the fair to start in full force this year. “Maybe it was because of the trade fair, which came to an end on February 7,” he reasons. “However, over the last weekend, our sales picked up fairly well.” Rowshan Ara Rushni's Panda Bhuter Kando has been selling like hotcakes with the children. “This book revolves around the theme that there are no such things as ghosts!” says Saha. “Every story in this book ends with the conclusion which relates to this idea. We also have science fictions and other biographical books. For instance Mongpute Rabindranath, by Moitree Devi has also hit it off well with readers.”

Like every year, the book fair starts off at 3 pm on weekdays and 11 am on weekends, much to the delight of the children and their parents. “But I think the fair can start off at 11 am everyday, even on weekdays,” thinks Jahar Lal Saha. “This way sales can pick up and students will be able to enjoy as well, in between classes.” The boi mela, as is popularly coined by all, is now the happening event in the city till the end of the month. Be sure to grab all the books that you have been looking forward to the whole yearlong!

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