Tuesday, 29 January 2008

A Fiasco Named Kolkata Book Fair

The Kolkata Book Fair has been called off!!

I could not believe it the first time though perhaps everyone would say that it was always on the cards. Caught between the crossfire of an unbending arrogant Guild (people who organize the fair) and the environment protecting experts who had taken on the Book Fair as a soft target, the future of the fair was suspect. The last moment verdict by the court of law was the proverbial last straw.

Given the situation, a few questions do arise.

Who gave the guild the right to play with the emotions of the common mass of Kolkata who look forward to this annual event?

Since it is a repetition of the last year near fiasco, why did the guild not have a Plan B?

Why did the authorities allow even the initial work to start when now they are trying to avoid the blame?

Since this has got a history from the last few years, why has an alternative site not been offered? After all, last year the fair at the Salt Lake stadium had lost much of its vaunted flair!

Why has the environment experts taken on only about the Book Fair? Is it because this is a soft target, which does not have the backing of big corporate houses or political honchos? After all, when every month 10,000 new cars hit the cramped up roads of Kolkata, thousands of new polluting restaurants open up, trees are hacked mercilessly to create new skyscrapers, the Tolly Nullah or the Krishnapur Canal remain pollution personified, Kolkata gets annual floods twice as the exit route of the storm water has been damaged or blocked in the name of development, a cigarette company does not want to move out of Kolkata as the number of smokers is maximum in the state, government vehicles belch smoke with impunity , 15 year old vehicles refuse to leave the roads, why only the book fair of all things?????

We in Kolkata have lost a lot of our heritage and culture in the name of Development and Progress. When other towns do protect their heritage and yet grow at a double speed than us, then why can’t we?

The Kolkata Book Fair is a part of our heritage—a heritage for which we should be damned proud of!!!

So please Messrs. Dutta, De, Bhattacharya, et all. Stop this stupid bickering and make sure that the Book Fair is back in all its grandeur irrespective of the location --- theories be damned!!!

Friday, 11 January 2008


If you are a resident of Kolkata, you would spend the entire year looking forward to it. Waiting with bated breath as you sweat your way to work and home, with frustration and apprehension as the monsoon drags on, with appreciative eagerness as the festive season sets it up and then it is finally on you.


The first signs are in the evening breeze cooling off and immediately like a waiting guerrilla army the woollens make their presence felt. Every resident worth his salt immediately brings out whatever warm clothing he/ she has and sets upon letting the world know that winter has arrived in Kolkata.

The new shopping malls display new winterware on their display cases, the local presence is in the form of Bhutias from the hills of Darjeeling and the craftsmen in the handicraft expos in the maidan.The maidan is filled up with teeming populace , the zoo is overcrowded enough to make the animals feel cranky, the cake shops glow in the hum of good business and suddenly the blazers, ties, pullovers are on you. Names like Nahoums and Flurys are bandied about.

Ironically, it is the period to flaunt. To flaunt your faux mink coat , your odd sized leather jacket, your ankle high leather boots, your branded cuff links, you pashmina, your knowledge of the hills, your capacity to sip wine , your knowledge about the authenticity of the 'Gur' , 'Mowa' and Nolen Gurer Sandesh, of handicrafts and even your love for books, theatre , films or fairs.

And people in the know do it fast, very fast. Because people know that the good times do not last. Like all good love affairs the expectancy period is much much more than the actual time of experience.

Then suddenly, when the Northern Hemisphere is still reeling under cold and new blasts of snowfall, sleeves start shortening , fans start moving and sweat reappearing in Kolkata.

Warm Memories of the cold remain to sustain the yearning for another 10 months.