I was in Chennai last week. I visited the city after about two years. This was where I grew up and completed my studies before moving to Bangalore for work. It was kind of nostalgic to see many places where I used to hang around. My daughter was born in Chennai but she was in Bangalore and Pune for the most part. I wanted her to experience the little things that I used to enjoy in Chennai which I don’t get here in Pune like Panneer Soda (Rosewater Soda), Bovonto (grape drink) and many more.
It was a coincidence that 43rd Annual Bookfair was being held while I was there. Being a book lover that my daughter is, she pestered me to take her to the fair. I last attended a book fair when I was in school and I vaguely remembered anything other than the fact that my dad bought few books on mathematics hoping that I would score a centum. He was an eternal optimist. Never gave up on me. Since I am also a book lover (in the sense of buying books not reading) I thought I should check this out.
We went there assuming that two hours would be enough but we were so wrong. The walk to reach the place itself was about a km. The path was filled with small toy shops on both sides. Then once you cross that you have the eateries. All kind of foods including giant papads (or fondly called as exhibition appalam) were available. Then we entered the actual area where books were being sold.
The entry fee was a nominal INR 20 (USD 0.28) and that too only for adults. It was free for kids.
So many books, so little time – Frank Zappa
That was the first thought that we had the moment we entered. We were greeted with an aisle of bookstalls by various publishing houses and book stores. The total number of stalls were over 500. Yes, 500+ bookstalls including those from Penguin, Higgin Bothams etc.. Let me put that in perspective for you. Check out the below image.
This was one aisle. There were 8 such aisles. Many of them were Tamil language books. Tamil is an ancient language with rich literature. We found books that were written thousands of years ago as well as contemporary books. My daughter was visibly excited and was running from one stall to another picking up her favourite books.
Two hours were not enough to even browse the stalls. The place was crowded too. It just reiterated how much people in Chennai love books and how many books are being published and consumed. It felt like a carnival. I have attended fairs in Pune (not exactly book fairs) but they were nothing compared to this. We picked up a few books and had to rush back home. If you are a book lover, you could easily spend the whole day here.
I would definitely attend book fairs in the future if I get a chance. It makes both the readers and the buyers (both are not always the same) happy.