20th Guwahati Book Fair from today

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi will inaugurate the Book Fair on Wednesday evening in the presence of noted writer Rebati Mohan Dutta Choudhury who will be the chief guest on the occasion.

Addressing a press conference on the eve of the inauguration today, Publication Board secretary Dr Rafiquz Zaman said that this year’s Book Fair would be the biggest ever with as many as 119 publishers from all over the country giving it a truly national character. The major objective of organising the event is to popularise books and encourage the reading habit, particularly among children, he said.

It is for the first time, therefore, that the Publication Board has adopted a mascot for the Book Fair. The mascot, called Sarba Sakhi (everyone’s friend), has an old man under a tree reading a book with a young boy and a younger girl watching him. The mascot, which would hold centrestage during the 12-day event, has been designed by the much acclaimed Nuruddin Ahmed who had earlier designed two award -winning tableaux representing Assam in the Republic Day parade in Delhi.

Dr Zaman said publishers have booked all the 175 stalls set up for the event. In fact requests for bookings are still coming in. There will be publishers from Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Chennai, Tripura, Shillong, Dibrugarh, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Nalbari and Golaghat, apart from Guwahati. Two publishers from Bangladesh will lend an international flavour to the Book Fair.

As many as 18 books, some of them for children, will be released by the Publication Board during the course of the Book Fair. In addition, there would be numerous book launches by individual publishers and writers. The organisers will also release a commemorative souvenir on the occasion. Dr Zaman said that among the new books to be released would be One Hundred Years of Assamese Poetry, a volume of Assamese poems translated into English.

Dr Zaman said that noted writers and artistes would be present during the Book Fair so that book lovers could get their books autographed by the greats. They would also take part in literary discussions. A wide range of cultural programmes would also be presented during the Book Fair. Among the highlights would be Tridhara, a programme of folk music on January 2, a puppet and mime show on January 4 and a unity concert on the final day.

Dr Zaman said that the cultural programmes would aim to provide exposure to children. They would be elaborate affairs highlighting the rich cultural traditions of the state, he said. “We are trying to add colour to the cultural programmes.” The stage for the cultural programmes would also be designed to symbolise the inherent unity among the diverse communities in the state.

The winners of the story-writing competition, organised by the Publication Board would also be announced during the Book Fair. They will be handed their prizes during the event.

The Guwahati Book Fair would be open to public from 11 am to 8 pm every day. Entry tickets would cost Rs 3 though school and college students would be allowed in free of charge provided they carry valid IDs. The Publication Board has tied up with the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) to provide buses for book lovers to reach their homes every evening.

The Publication Board has been performing well recently, after languishing for several years. There is a new sense of purpose in the organisation. “We are on a revival mode,” Dr Zaman told The Assam Tribune. The Board has been notching up sales between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh every month. It now plans to set up a Publication Board Book Club offering heavy discounts on books to members who would be enlisted for two years for Rs 150. Those who sign up during the 20th Guwahati Book Fair would have to pay a registration fee of Rs 99. The Publication Board will bring out quarterly newsletters highlighting the latest books available with it.

(The Assam Tribune, 28/12/05)