Arts and culture

A Visit to World Book Fair 2017

The New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF) that has been taking place annually for the past 44 years is now a major calendar event in the publishing world. NDWBF 2017 will be held from 7 to 15 January 2017 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. The Fair is organized by National Book Trust, India. The Central Library, JNU has arranged a bus from 8–15 January 2017 that shall ply every day from the Library Canteen, JNU to Pragati Maidan as per following schedule:

Central Library to Pragati Maidan- 1:45 – 2:00 p.m.

Pragati Maidan to Central Library – 8:10 – 8:15 p.m.

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‘Dude why you going today? You won’t get any good discount. It’s only on the last day when they have to get rid of their stocks that the book vendors tend to give huge discounts,’ said Deepanjan over the phone. ‘Dude can you stop being an opportunist for a second,’ with a steadfast resolve to visit the ‘World Book Fair 2017’ on the day itself, I continued, ‘see the Union has called for a strike a today, so no classes. And I have no plans of raising slogans at the Admin Block, so I am going for it. You come if you want to.’

‘And I am the opportunist here? Seriously?’

After hanging up on Deepanjan I took an auto for the Hauz Khas Metro Station. From there I boarded the train going towards Samaypur Badali and got off at Rajiv Chowk. Then I took the train for Pragati Maidan (Blue Line). Although the tickets for the fair are available at the entry gates, it’s only prudent that one buys them at the metro station itself so as to avoid the long queues at the gates.

Riding high on the expectation of making this year’s visit a cashless one, I had my first reality check at the ticket counter. When I asked the person sitting on the other side of the counter if I could pay using a card or an e- wallet, much to my amusement he replied, ‘kya sir. tees rupaya ke liye kya hi aap card swipe karoge. jitni der mein aap card swipe karke apna pin daaloge utne mein main 3 logo ko ticket de dunga.’  Sensing the restlessness prevailing in the queue, I dared not to argue any further and paid for the ticket using cash.

One can spot a map of the venue at the entrance. Such maps can prove to be very useful if one has an itinerary in mind. They have been put up at every entry gate and can be spotted easily. Moreover, there are multiple information desks spread across the area. One can ask for directions to the pavilion of their favourite publishing house from the desks. 

Housing big names like Penguin, NBT, McMillan, Harper Collins, and Oxford University Press, Hall No- 11 and 12 are the star attractions of the event. Browsing through the books at the pavilions of different publishing houses, the one thought that recurs all the while is that ‘the books are overpriced.’ Despite discounts as good as 20 per cent being offered by Penguin and NBT, the prices are a no match to their online counterparts. I could see Deepanjan’s prediction coming true. But I did not want to go back home empty handed. Hence, after hours of browsing, I bought a short story collection of Ismat Chugtai for Rs 120 from the Om Book Store’s Pavilion. Here, paying using a card was not a problem. In fact, a good number of stalls and pavilions have a POS machine, and many of them can be seen flaunting ‘we accept Paytm’ signs outside. However, there are still many without a POS machine or a Paytm sign. ‘We did apply for the machine but have not received it yet. Since we do not have a machine, customers are turning away,’ says Kiran, an independent book vendor. According to the figures on NBT’s website, the number of participants has taken a huge dip this year. Some blame it on demonetization, others to the rising competition from the online platforms.

Apart from shopping, one can also relish the talks and cultural performances taking place in different halls. There are also multiple theme pavilions put up at Hall No-8 and 9 which are drawing huge crowds. One such theme pavilion is Manushi which gives a peep into some of the finest writings on and by women. It hosts a series of programs concerning women’s writings, including discussions, interactions with women writers and select dance and musical performances based on writings by women.    

PS JNU has also organized the display of books of JNU faculty and other JNU publications during the World Book Fair. The display has been organized at Stall Number 61 in Hall No. 14. 

Abhishek Kumar is a BA student at CFFS, SL and works for The Informer.

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