“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” 
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

World Book Fair being held at Pragati Maidan New Delhi is one of the oldest Book Fairs in India. The first Delhi Book Fair was inaugurated in 1972 by the then President of India V.V Giri. Back then it was a biennial event. Since 2013 the fair is being organised annually by National Book Trust in association with Indian Trade Promotion Organisation generally in the first to second week of January. It is being promoted as Asia’s biggest Book Fair and it is here that I propose to find my true soulmate- Books.

The 2019 World Book Fair is being held from 05-13 January at Pragati Maidan from 11 am to 8 pm. The theme of this year is ‘Books for Readers with Special Needs’ and ‘Sharjah’ (UAE) is the Guest of Honor’s country.  On 05 of Jan I had an early brunch and by 11 am I was on a metro towards Pragati Maidan.  I reached Pragati Maidan Metro Station around 11.30. It is barely 05-10 minutes walk from the metro station and by 11.40 I was inside the fair grounds ready to explore a limitless world.

My first destination was the Indian Language Publishers Hall. This was a microcosm of the Indian culture and exhibited the diversity of its literature. Books from many Indian languages were on display here. From Hindi to Urdu, from Bengali to Punjabi the stalls displayed the rich and diverse literary culture of India. Being a Bong guy I decided to visit the Bengali stalls first. I was disappointed that only a few stalls were displaying Bengali Books. Still the rich literary heritage of Bengal from Rabindranath Tagore & Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay to Mahasweta Devi & Sunil Gangopadhyay was in full display here, my personal favourites being Satyajit Ray’s Feluda and Sharadindu Bandyopadyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi. But I decided to settle on the Pujabarshiki edition  of the popular  Bengali Cookery
 magazine ‘Hangla Hesel’, as I had to return home at the end of the day and explain my absence for a whole day to my loving wife. Bengalis love their food and a good cook book should amicably settle chances of any domestic discord.

Next came the Hindi stalls. Hindi books on a wide range of subjects, from the heartbreaking novels of Munshi Premchand and the intoxicating poetry of Harivansh Rai Bachchan to the glitz & glamour of Bollywood, were on display here. My mastery over the Hindi language chiefly consisted of my interest in hindi comic books as a child, so I decided to stick to the same. A visit to Diamond Book Stall and I was reuinted with the world’s most clever man, Pran’s ‘√áhacha Chaudhary’, whose brain works faster than the computer, and his sidekick ‘Sabu’, an alien from  Jupiter & the most powerful person on this earth. Then came my tryst with the Indian superheroes
Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv & Doga  from the publishers Raja Pocket Books (the Indian equivalent of Marvel & DC). These comics brought back vivid memories of my childhood days.

I have a four year old at home so I headed towards the kids section next. Einstein once said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent read them more fairy tales.” Hence, I decided to select a few fairy tales and bedtime stories for my little one, so that on growing up he does not take after me.

By the time I was finished selecting books for my family, my stomach was already crying “how can you ignore me like this bro???’’. So I decided to pacify him too.Though I had a wide range to choose from, from chinese noodles to desi pav bhaji and dum biryani, but the food did not look too appetizing. I decided on the Chicken Biryani. Though the food was rubbish, it provided me with the energy to conquer the final frontier - English literature.

Books from all the major English publishers were on display . My favourite stalls being Penguin Random House India and Harper Collins. From Tintin & DC comics to the classics like The Book Thief & To Kill a Mockingbird, from Indian Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik & the spiritual Life’s Amazing Secrets by Gaur Gopal Das to Sapiens & Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, Penguin India had a wide selection of books for everyone and from every field. Harper Collins is home to the undisputed Queen of murder mysteries, Agatha Christie and many of her titles were available here. Other notable authors include George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) & J.R.R.Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit). It
had classics such as The Alchemist and modern thrillers such as The Woman in the Window. Other notable stalls included Hachette, Bloomsbury & Pan Macmillan India. Hachette India had some of the finest books on Horror & Mystery, from books of the master of horror Stephen King to those of authors like Anthony Horowitz & Keigo Higashino (The Devotion of Suspect X). Bloomsbury was a treat for the Harry Potter fans, while Pan Macmillan had the books of such legendary authors as Jeffrey Archer. I was spoilt for choice. Next came the stalls selling old & used books. They had a wide collection and you could buy a popular novel for as less a Rs100/-. By the time I had finished going through these it was already well past 7 pm and the stalls were closing for the day.

I left the fair grounds at 7.30 with loads of books. I can hardly wait to go through these. I will be posting my views on the books in my blog in the coming months. Overall I had a great time at the Book Fair. My New Year is off to a great start. Wishing you a prosperous year ahead. Happy New Year.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

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