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Jamshedpur Book Fair: A unique 36 year old romance revisited

Mail News Service

Jamshedpur, Nov 18: “The unique aroma of new books, abstract joy of turning the pages and adding this publication to the bookcase built over the decades, is a pride booklovers have nurtured through time,” observed the Tagore Society General Secretary Ashis Chowdhury as he made the rounds of the expansive Rabindra Bhawan Ground that has been witness to Jamshedpur Book Fair over 36 years of nurturing and caring literary, literatures, booklovers. This annual rendezvous is a romance that booklovers look forward to with bated breath akin to other festivities.

The two years of COVID-19 scare deprived citizens of the irrepressible joy of walking into stalls at random, looking at the rows of bookshelves, quickly scanning through the pages, picking up books and trotting over to the counters and paying up for the collection before moving on to other stalls for hunting up other topics that interest them.

The grass lawn may have been replaced by paving stones but the love affair with the Book Fair continued to strengthen this out-of-the-world romance between books and bookworms. The Fair Ground at Rabindra Bhawan continues to provide ecstatic delight either while stalls’ hopping or going over to snack stalls for a cup of chai, coffee, lemon tea and snacks that turn more delicious under the open sky and well lighted fair premises. Add to that the initial yet comfortable chill of initial winter and the feeling of soul-soothing happiness reappears in the environs of Rabindra Bhawan.

The two year hiatus did not have a suppressive effect in the zeal of book fanatics as was evident on Friday, November 18. Visitors started trickling in as the gates opened at 2 pm and by 6 in the evening footfalls started growing. But the romance of it all is that the Rabindra Bhawan lawns, in spite of the crowds, have room enough to amble around comfortably.

Oxford Publication has been in business for 104 years now and the varied subjects published in varied languages that have ensured the elongating beeline of booklovers. The APJ Oxford Publication at stall number 57 is attracting readers but, as Subrata Mitra said, “The name is pulling in visitors but our business expectations are being dampened. The Fair organizers have stipulated among other terms, to provide a minimum discount of 10 percent on every purchase. Average sale of Rs 14 thousand is disappointing especially when we have to pay for food and lodging for three persons. Add to that our transportation cost and you will understand the cause of our financial discontent.”

Expectedly, Stall number 17 housing the Penguin book stall captivated readers with the variety of books on various subjects including stories, novels, reference books, science subjects and ‘what have you.’ The sales representative informed that the number of visitors had started climbing after the initial two days and so had sales. He said that the daily sale was around Rs 30 thousand. “We are offering 10 percent discount to general customers and upto 25 percent to libraries and corporate houses and educational institutions.”

There has been a constant flow of buyers in stall # 16 of Arihant Publications that has a goldmines of books for students. Arihant’s Abhishek Agarwal said that he had opened the innings at the Jamshedpur Book Fair for the fifth year running and going by sales, the counter jingle has picked up as compared to the last couple of years and currently, the average sale stood at Rs 25 thousand. “We are offering discount between 15 and 20 percent. We are catering to the book needs of students who are to appear or JEE Mains and JEE Advanced competitions, sample papers. We are also offering text support for CBSE and ICSE students,” informed Abhishek of Arihant.

Another regular and trusted publication at stall # 42, Deys’ Publishers has been a prominent feature in Jamshedpur Book Fair through six years. Representative Soumen Pradhan stated, “We were here last in 2019 but the two year COVID-19 interruption, has resulted in a downward trend, at least upto today. Moreover, we are basically Bengali literature publishers but readers in this language have declined. The younger generation is more or less short of interest.” The stall has books on subjects ranging from, philosophy, stories and novels to books on children’s interests. The stocks have a collection of old favorites and new works of comparatively new authors.

The fair ground with 67 stalls has old, not so old and comparatively new publications to cater to different tastes and different needs. Among this mix are publishers like New Book Corner, Anando Publishers, Aurobindo Society, Navneet, Rupa Publishers, Bharat Pustak Bhandar, Mermaid Books, Shikhayan and Phoenix among others.

The APJ Oxford stall in its stock has the works of the latest ‘hit’ author Colleen Hoover. One prized collection of Bookers Prize winner for 2022, Daisy Rockwell, is, ‘Tomb of Sand.’ APJ Oxford sales official, Arindam informed that among the books and their authors, 30 percent of the writers were new and the House was making an effort to boost this genre of authors.

One common feeling among the visitors was that such annual occasions provided a breather from the hectic rush for daily survival and the ambience at the 36th Jamshedpur Book Fair did not disappoint. There are still two days to go and such breathers are required.

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