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Amrit Mahotsav’s the reason but Sahitya Akademi just came close to readers with its book fair

The book fair, ‘Pustakayan’, at Delhi’s Ravindra Bhawan has stalls from more than 35 publishers and will be active till 18 November.

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New Delhi: For the first time in 68 years, the Sahitya Akademi has organised a book fair. The revered literary institution in Lutyens’ Delhi has always been an active participant in book fairs, but steered clear of playing host to one for decades. But this time around, it’s taken the lead as part of its initiative to celebrate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav—75 years of India’s Independence.

“We have had a thriving book culture, and on the occasion of Amrit Mahotsav, we thought we should celebrate it. By including all publications, we also wanted to bring more variety for readers,” said Sahitya Akademi’s Assistant Editor Ajay Singh.

The sprawling lawns of Ravindra Bhawan at Mandi House were teeming with book lovers, sellers and stalls from more than 35 publishers on Friday, when the fair, ‘Pustakayan’ was inaugurated. With a focus on children’s literature, it will be held for eight days till 18 November.

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Focus on children literature

The Akademi’s decision to focus on children’s literature is proving to be a hit. A group of young women, all completing their Bachelor’s in Elementary Education wanted to see how illustrations were used in children’s books. A senior level bureaucrat stopped by to buy books from his favourite Hindi authors at discounted rates.

“It was interesting for us, because we wanted to see how illustrations can help hasten the learning process,” said Jigyasa, a B.El.Ed student who was particularly impressed with the collection of books in the Ektara stall. The children’s publication house focuses on illustration-heavy books and magazines. Renowned poets like Gulzar, Vinod Kumar Shukla, Naresh Saxena, Varun Grover frequently write for them.

Young teachers were seen moving from stall to stall, studying the colourful posters and education-related CDs. After two years of digital learning brought about by the pandemic, the fair served as a reminder of the importance of physical books.

“Kids have only learnt through mobile screens. In the era of e-books and paper, no one can deny the importance of hard books or paperbacks. The sense of touch and feel a book evokes is a different learning experience,” said another B.El.Ed student.

A more serious group of listeners were listening to prominent literary figures in a small make-shift tent where all literary panel discussions are supposed to occur.

Saturday saw noted children writer Divik Ramesh interact with his fans. On Friday, author Nasira Sharma, MP Satyanarayan Jatiya and Culture Ministry’s joint secretary Uma Nanduri were present at the event. Friday’s panel discussion was on ‘Baal Sahitya – Kal, Aaj aur Kal’ (Children’s literature – yesterday, today and tomorrow). Children writers Madhu Pant, Devendra Mewari and Raees Siddiqui were the participants. During the course of the festival, workshops on story-telling, poetry, cartoon illustration will also be organized.

“There are several programs planned for the span of the next eight days, including Bal Sahitya Puruskar on the occasion of Children’s Day, and we hope more people visit Pustakayan,” said K Sreenivasan Rao, secretary, Sahitya Kala Akademi.

No event is complete without a couple of selfies—at the fair, a giant replica of a pen and a book served as the perfect backdrop for the visitors.

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Sahitya Akademi’s legacy

The fair has created a buzz among publishing houses as well. Publishers such as Vani Prakashan, Rajkamal Prakashan, Prabhat Prakashan and others are participating in Pustakayan. For children’s publishing houses, the timing is perfect as children are back at school.

“Our main motto is to promote Hindi literature for children. We are trying to push kids’ creativity which is often suppressed. Due to Covid, most of the things related to publication business did not work that well. We have finally got the opportunity now,” he said. He went on to show some of the beautifully illustrated posters on display, which included poems written by Gulzar for children like Zameen Humko Ghumaati Hai (The Earth Makes Us Revolve), Boli Rangoli (Rangoli Speaks) among others.

Rajkamal Prakashan’s sales coordinator Vijay Kumar Sharma told ThePrint that the publishing house was displaying about 1,000 titles. “We are hopeful that more people will come. Covid gave all of us a hard time, but things are largely fine now. Book lovers should visit us,” he said.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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