Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5 Issue 5, Tuesday, February 2, 2010




Boimela thoughts

Amor Ekushey Grontho Mela, over the years has evolved into a symbol of creed. It is a heritage, a character that has had a profound effect in our lives.

The early 90s saw signs of chaos into the mould within the fair, a mark that now seems to have disappeared. The arrangements within the fair are now deemed more polished, efficient in execution, a testimony of Bangalipona, a reflection of our literature and culture.

The roads toward the Academy now has stalls on either sides; there has been commercialisation through the selection of sponsors, one can even find ATM booths at the fairground, an easy way to buy more books at whims.

This has received mixed reactions within the readers, visitors and publishers at this exposition. Speaking with Johor Lal Shaha, Director of Muktadhara, we gathered his views on the new addenda within Ekushey Boimela.

He opined, that the publishers' stand to maintain boimela within the national borders is a must. He believes, comparisons of Ekushey book fair with international showcases like the Frankfurt Fair is futile.

The underlying philosophy behind arranging the two is far different- while one is truly commercial in nature, another is imbibed within the soul of a nation.

Shaha is, however, a staunch critic of the rampant commercialisation that one has observed in the last few years.

He said, “Spaces provided for commercial banks and ATM booths could be better utilised by availing them to publishers. The fairground has been compromised as it is, out of necessity for the expansion of Bangla Academy, so space is a big issue, especially with the growing number of publishers. Just like Burdhaman House should remain as it is, so should the fair. Its close proximity to Dhaka University and Shaheed Minar adds to the distinction of the boimela.”

Md Jakir Hossan Prodan Jewel, publisher and book dealer of 'Tobuo Boi Porun' fame believes that the time is now ripe when we must think of decentralising the fair. Maintaining the grandiosity of the Bangla Academy fair, similar arrangements, possibly on a smaller scale at the beginning, should be initiated in all divisional cities, if not at the district levels. “This”, he adds “will widen the scope of the book industry, and help bring good publications nearer to the readers.”

Johor Lal Shaha of Muktadhara also raised a similar conjecture.

A Z M Akhlaqur Rahman, is a Civil Engineer by profession and a bookworm by passion. His views, however, are more progressive. “You simply cannot take the mela out of the Academy but infiltration of the commercial aspects, if kept within bounds, can only add to the mela.

“There are other book fairs arranged within the city- Dhaka International Book Fair and others, albeit on a much smaller scale. But they lack appeal within the Dhaka readership for many reasons. I believe Ekushey Boimela should embrace international participation, at least from West Bengal, because as it is we are cutting Bangla literature into two halves: East and West.

“Yes, true some books are no longer within the realm of copyright but what of current literary trends within the other side of Bangla literature?”

The Bangla Academy has in the past promoted Bangla literature in all its forms through the book fair, and continues to do so. Mohammed Shahadat Hossain of Bangla Academy reiterates that the institution works within a rigid framework but has new plans for the fair. If things come under criticism, plans can always be changed, but stressed on the fact that the plans are for the betterment of the whole arrangement.

This year, Bangla Academy has announced the introduction of Chittoronjan Shaha Memorial Award, to be handed to the best book in the fair, in terms of content and quality of production. This will not only inspire publishers but also writers to excel in their creative pursuit.

So, how will the fair be in the future? There are no final words on that. Change, as it seems is the only inevitable. The Amor Ekushey Grontho Mela will evolve with time, and mould itself with the thought of the generation, and the generations to come.

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif



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