Amar Ekushey Boi Mela
Frenzied February at the Boi Mela
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina flips Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina flips through a book at a stall after opening the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela on Bangla Academy premises last week. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and Information Minister Abul Kalam Azad are on her right. Photo: PMO
February, to many, is a crazy month (in a good way of course), filled with cultural activities and a frenzy of energy seen amongst many, especially the younger people, all over the country. For one, Dhaka city comes to life at the Bangla Academy premises, where the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela is organised. Like every year, the long awaited book fair began on February 1, right after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the event. The guest of honour, at the inaugural ceremony, was Nobel laureate and noted economist Amartya Sen.
Rehana Akhtar Urmi and her friends were seen waiting in line outside the Bangla Academy entrance. One would think that once the prime minister finished off wither speech and left the area, Urmi and her friends would rush inside the Bangla Academy premises. However, they had different plans. "I am trying to be a little organised this year!" she remarks. "I am going to start checking out the books outside the premises first and then go inside." Like the last couple of years, this year, rows of book stalls have been built outside the Bangla Academy as well. Every year, the number of stalls seems to be increasing. In fact, writers and thinkers fear that by the next fewyears, the number may reach such a level that might just drive the authorities to shift to a different location for the fair to be held. "I believe the authorities should start monitoring this problem immediately and be more selective when it comes to including publication houses in the fair," says Mohammad Asif, a young student and an avid reader. "This place is practically a historical heritage point and the fair would definitely lose its charm if it is held elsewhere and not here."
The first couple of days, surprisingly enough, were slightly slow in terms of visitors and readers. Unlike the years before, the first day of the book fair had only a handful of visitors. However, the number picked up on the weekend. Thanks to the special days dedicated to children by the authorities, plenty of young readers were seen checking out book stalls, carrying arms full of books, with their parents. Young couples with their toddlers were waiting in line for the face painters. Along with books, a large number of delicious plates of phuchka, chotpoti, sandwiches, samosas and shingaras were literally selling like hotcakes.
Amongst the regular fictions, novels, poems and essays, many publication houses have brought out books for teenagers and young university students as well. Young readers were seen crowding around some of the famous names in the fair, Muktadhara Publications, Anupam Publications, Anannya, Mowla Brothers, Unmad Magazine and many more. The stall owners were happy since they managed to set their own records. Shaheen of Anupam Publications was happy about how he managed to sell around 40 books in just half an hour.
For the first time, the authorities have installed an e-centre, at the Boi Mela area, where visitors would get information about new books and other facilities on large screens. Visitors will also be able to use their laptops, cell phones and other devices for latest online updates at the Boi Mela area, since the wi-fi has been set up at the premises.
While some youngsters, unprepared and not expecting the heavy dust flowing everywhere, were covering themselves with hats, caps, shawls and scarves, a more practical bunch were seen wearing face masks and going about from one stall to another buying and looking through books.
Not only is Ekushey Boi Mela a major national event for Bangladesh, it is also a very important platform where youngsters are encouraged to develop a habit of reading and analysing. It is also a great opportunity for young book lovers to build a home library with a good selection of books.
The fair is on the whole of February from 3 pm to 9 pm, while on weekends (Fridays and Saturdays), the fair is open from 11 am to 9 pm, where the mornings are specially organised for young readers and their parents.
Photo : Shawkat Jamil