SIGHTS, SOUNDS AND ENCOUNTERS
- Ravi Shankar S. N., II MA English
The notion of being around books and the people who love them fills me with a sense of positive energy. Despite being a sporadic reader and quite rigid in my choice of subject matter, I decided early on that I wouldn’t miss this year’s Chennai Book Fair at any cost and set out to visit the fair on Sunday, the 8th of January. It was a memory to cherish, and I’m thrilled at the prospect of recollecting it here. It makes me relive some pretty memorable moments.
My first thought on reaching the venue and looking at the number of stalls was “Wow!” Hundreds of stalls jam-packed with books… It was a book lover’s paradise, and I wished that non-readers also visited the place just to see the sheer grandeur of it. I criss-crossed my way across stalls, overwhelmed by the vast collections that populated each shelf. Furthermore, if I thought the number of books was awe-inspiring, the number of people there was even more so. In the social-media dominated world of today, the sight of so many youngsters picking up their favourite books was heartening to behold.
While browsing shelves, I also engaged in a bit of “people-watching”. I overheard parents picking out books for their kids and even better, kids picking out books for themselves. As someone whose childhood was shaped by books, I couldn’t help thinking that I was secretly privy to a potential momentous event in the life of those kids.
Tamil books dominated the scene and generated quite a crowd, and I personally was happy to see that the next generation hadn’t forgotten their roots. It was a moment of sheer bliss when I turned a corner and saw a sign advertising the book ‘Mazhaivil Manithargal’ written by Dr. Jayanthasri Balakrishnan, who was one of my UG professors. She is someone who continues to inspire me and therefore, seeing her photo on the large sign felt like running into an old friend from a past life. I chose to immortalize the moment by photographing it.
For years I have been an avid comic book reader and collector, and they hold an appeal to me even after I graduated to more ‘mature’ books (read: any book without illustrations). Knowing full well how rare it is to find imported comics and graphic novels in Chennai, I had no hope of finding any at the fair save for The Adventures of Tintin, a collection I had completed years ago.
I received my second happy surprise when I came across a stall that sold hundreds of imported comics, probably the only one of its kind in the entire fair. I spent thirty joyous minutes browsing through the collections and picking out some interesting superhero titles (see photo) with a salesman who was obviously excited by my enthusiasm. I walked away from the fair with quite a haul and memories of many unforgettable sights and sounds. I made a silent promise right there: “I’ll be back next year.”
Addendum: A few days after my visit to the fair, I lost my phone with all the photos I’d taken there. I was only able to retrieve these two images because I’d posted them on social networking sites the very same day. Guess I won’t be writing off social media any time soon!