I am an irregular visitor to the Chennai book fair but this year there was a special reason to go to the fair but more about it later. This year the book fair has relocated to the Island Grounds instead of the other old venues. So the first challenge for four wheeler users who were not privileged enough was to park in the grounds near the Munro statue. The organizers had arranged vans but they were insufficient on Saturday and I used the autos available to reach the fair. The auto drivers made a killing for the short ride charging Rs 40 flat each way.
The fair has enough non book options to interest people and besides the usual food stalls I even saw a stall that sold pickles outside the hall!!! A large food court also ensured that food for the stomach will also be satiated with food for the mind at the venue. The fair charges a nominal entry fee of Rs 10 and the ticket is eligible for a lucky draw where the prizes are book vouchers so for a bibliophile nothing can be better.
The Book Sellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI) has been organizing the book fair for close to 4 decades and it is a veritable magnet for those who love the written word. There is a good representation to works in Tamizh and I think this may be the biggest showcase for many authors in the local language and home grown literature. The book fair is also an opportunity for several organizations to connect with the people and sales may be incidental. The Reserve Bank of India was one such along with some other government entities. There are others from various religious, cultural and maybe even political affiliations having stalls among the book stalls aiming to connect with the people.
If you a book lover then the book fair is the place to be but a good bank balance will be very useful because it takes a lot of effort to restrain oneself to a few books. Spanning genres from the usual fiction to academics, self-help, personal development, religion to many more there are enough options in the 500 0dd stalls stacked high with books to satiate nearly everyone. There are also CDs for those who like multimedia experiences and some non-book items that were quite popular. One stall that had a blow pen that sold well based on the wonderful art work by the sellers. I hope that it does not become like the flutes sold by the vendors on the streets which work only in their hands.
There is a 10% discount on all books in the fair though I saw some stalls offering more based on certain books so bargain hunters with a good eye could also get some good deals. I think that the fair this year is missing out on other events that I remember happened in earlier shows and there is an old toy train that provides some amusement to those who choose to ride it.
Finally the other reason that drew me to the fair this year apart from the general love for books is the release of an Anthology of short stories titled “After the floods” by members of the Chennai Bloggers Club. This is a special book because the book is based on the momentous Chennai floods that changed the city of Chennai. I am immensely proud that my contribution was also chosen to be a part of this compilation. Buying a book with my name in the author list is a surreal feeling and heightened the happiness that I usually feel in the book fair. If you have not visited the fair this year, rush it closes tomorrow.