Saturday, 21 January 2017

Tracing the Fair to its Roots...

Phenomenal Patronage for Books Over the Years
Andrew Jasper, II MA English

I had the pleasure of going to the book exhibition held at St. George's school during the Pongal Holidays with my family. A vast number  of book sellers had stalls. Nearly 600 stalls in Tamil and English were spread under a huge shamiana constructed for the occasion. This Chennai Book Fair  is an annual book fair organized in the Chennai by the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI). The fair typically lasts for about two weeks during the New Year-Pongal season. This book fair is a trump card for most publishers as they reap nearly half of their sales in a year during this fair. Before every book fair, these publishers print a lot of books and owe lump sum money as debts.

It is said that the First Madras Book Fair was organized in Madras between December 14 and December 24, 1977, by The Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI), an association of major publishing companies of Tamil Nadu. The first Madras Book Fair had 22 stalls and was held at the Madrasa-i-Azam school due to the initiative of K. V. Mathew of B. I. Publications. He is also credited with planning and organisation of the next five editions of the fair. The Quaid-e-Milleth Government Arts College for Women remained the venue of the book fair till 2007, and then when the venue was shifted to St. George Anglo-Indian High Secondary School on the Poonamallee High Road due to space and parking constraints.

In addition to book stalls, there are food and refreshment stalls to serve the needs of hungry visitors. I enjoyed the Delhi appalams sold here while my family also enjoyed the lemon soda which I could not have as I had a bad cold. We also bought tasty chappatis and dosas made of millets which is touted to be nutritious.

Regular debates, contests and speeches are held at the venue. Annual awards to the best writer and the best publisher are given at the fair. British Council participated in the 40th Chennai Book Fair and had membership drives.

My favourite shop here was Eswar Book Centre. My mother and brother also picked a lot of books at a bargain. This shop had a wide collection of books which are basically very good seconds. So we could easily splurge a lot more money on books. The best buy here was a very interesting hard bound book on Tribes with a lot of colourful pictures for just Rs.200/. This book fair thus was a great shopping experience for us.

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