Kolkata book fair – a tradition not to be missed

After the long train journey and the disproportionately long blog post about it (https://gabbartrip.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/kolkata-scenes-from-memory-and-a-memory-card-the-first-couple-of-days/), time to revisit the book fair.

So, having been in the company of several Bengalis right through school, college and workplace, I was as curious about the book fair as they used to be nostalgic about it. Which means, very very much! As soon as we realised that the book fair was going on during the same time we were visiting, we immediately decided it was a place where we just had to go. I remember it being quite far away in the city but Kolkata is fabulous when it comes to public transport – buses, trains, trams, cycle rickshaws, even the occasional ferry if you aren’t in a hurry, and of course the yellow Ambassador cabs!

Once we entered the fair, we were pleasantly surprised to see such a big queue at the entrance of a book fair. It was nice to see this, especially in the age of Ebay, Flipkart and Kindle. Another thing we really appreciated was the use of cloth bags everywhere instead of plastic ones. We were able to get in fairly quickly and were impressed by the number of Bengali books on display. It certainly seemed to live up to the reputation of being Asia’s largest book fair and the world’s most visited – (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolkata_Book_Fair). There were tons of people there, looking, reading, shopping, discussing – completely immersed in the place.

There were many local and ‘non-native’ ‘small-scale’ artisans making and selling their products. We saw this man sitting peacefully, quietly painting a little boat which was probably floating in his thoughts somewhere.

painter at the book fair

painter at the book fair

He used just a palette knife with which he dealt out swift accurate strokes and created something beautiful, very quickly and in a very nice way.

little puddles of paint, on which floated a boat

little puddles of paint, on which floated a boat

Everytime we see someone paint like this, we feel like painting and learning how to paint. Very impressive.

Walking along, we saw little clay idols of Lord Ganesha. A lot of them were colorfuly painted and a few of them were pretty “modern” with sunglasses as well!

A Cool God.

A Cool God.

And there were more forms of Ganesha as well – this time made with jute sticks. In fact there are many forms of Ganesha (or Ganapati) defined – as high as 32 and maybe even more.

jutestick ganesha

jutestick ganesha

Madhubani paintings

Madhubani paintings

2012 was apparently the last year artists would be allowed. There was a protest going on against this the day we went. In fact, mistaking my wife for a Bengali (she loves wearing a big Bengali Bindi and colorful Indian cotton clothes) , a reporter started interviewing her in Bengali ; to which she replied “Bengali gothilla” ( funny because she said it in Kannada, a south Indian language which she can’t speak much either ).

It was a day well spent, and a trip which we hope to make again sometime soon.



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