The romance of reading lives on

In the age of multi-media anarchy and digital seductions, the romance of the printed word has not lost its lure in India. The culture of reading is alive and humming. The annual New Delhi World Book Fair left thousands of bibliophiles yearning for more. The week-long feast of literary delights and cultural stimulation with live music and food from France also gave a glimpse of the cultural heritage of the European country that has honoured its authors and thinkers by naming streets after them.

Promising to be back next year, not two years as it used to be earlier, the 40-year-old fair ended after giving readers and book lovers what they came looking for – books, and many more books.

Delhiites made a beeline to the book fair, virtually swarming the display pavilions and the seminar and interaction sections at Pragati Maidan, leaving one wonder if the printed word was threatened from the digital revolution that offers a coveted volume in just a couple of clicks on the web.

Vikas Dahiya, a former Jawaharlal Nehru University student, took days off through the week and also ensured he had the last two days reserved exclusively for the fair so as to give his book shelf a healthy new look.

“The fair is like having a single point delivery facility, bringing the best of the very best books from across the world and country at one place,” said the 36-year-old bibliophile.

“You get to see books of different genres. Also you have the option of browsing through the pages and then decide whether to buy it or not. On-line portals do not give you a look-in into a book,” he said.

The fair’s highlight was the organizers’ emphasis on freedom of thought and expression. Readers and publishers enjoyed the seamless interaction at various reading sessions as authors took questions from their fans in the week-long celebration of the written word.

Encounters with renowned French authors Tahar Ben Jelloun, Kenize Mourad and Dominique Sigaud left book lovers spellbound.

Indian writer Rahul Bhattacharya read from his book “Pundits from Pakistan” and Rehan Engineer from “Pictures from Italy”, among other interesting interactive, reading sessions.

Two thousand French titles were available along with a fair representation of Indian regional languages with about 100 participants showcasing their publications.

The French Embassy played the role of the cultural ambassador as a part of their Bonjour India fest happening across 16 cities of India for promoting the French Literature and attracting more publishers and translators from India.

More than 1,100 exhibitors from 23 countries flocked to the fair with categories ranging from children’s books and religious books, to ebooks and elearning.

On the second day of the fair, the National Book Trust, the country’s apex publishing body, along with FICCI, organized the CEO Speak at Chairman’s Breakfast, a forum for CEOs and executives of the publishing industry. The forum discussed and shared common issues and concerns to evolve a composite agenda of Indian publishing.

It’s never enough for a bibliophile, especially, when you have so much to choose from. But for those who have stocked up bags full of books, its time for them to let their soul wander among pages till the New Delhi World Book Fair 2014. Happy reading!