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Small book fairs, major gains

Small budgets, medium-to-small publishers, not-so-willing sponsors and, in many cases, a one-man show. The local book fairs are battling such constraints. and the ones in south Calcutta and its suburbs are even drawing in the crowds.

The book fairs at Dhakuria, Behala and Sonarpur, or even the one recently held at Gangulybagan, face a funds crunch and many other hurdles, but have managed to stay afloat and record a king-size footfall.

“We incurred a loss last year and this year, too, the scenario is bleak. But one thing gives me satisfaction — 90 per cent of the people who come here are actual buyers,” said Tapan Mitra, secretary of the Dhakuria Boimela Committee. The fair, held from December 6 to 15 on the Taltala ground, in Jodhpur Park, is in its third year. The previous two years, it was held at Babubagan and on Palli Maidan, but this year, it has shifted to a bigger venue as the number of stalls has shot up to 33. Some big publishers, like Punascha and Katha O Kahini, are part of the fair.

“With so many schools in the vicinity, the fair is bound to increase reading interest among students,” said P.S. Dutta, a resident of the area and a first-timer at the fair. “There should be such a fair in every locality,” said his wife Mira.

“I was at the fair last year too,” said Priyanka Majumdar. Others like her feel the show must go on.

If the Dhakuria Boimela is catching public fancy, the Sonarpur Book Fair is a craze. This year, the fair was held from November 30 to December 6 and, according to organisers Sonarpur Police Station Club Sammonnay Committee, drew more than 30,000 visitors. “We have been organising the fair for the past 13 years and several big publishing houses and even corporate houses put up stalls here," said Satya Pal, organising committee secretary. This year's fair had 50 stalls, “but we had to turn away 30 others,” he added.

Naba Kumar Karmakar of Punascha feels that the response was tremendous at the Gangulybagan Book Fair, held a few days ago. “We have sold books worth more than Rs 5,000 a day at Gangulybagan," he said.

Despite all the hassles, the organisers plan to come back next year and after that. “Profit is not the primary motive,” says Somnath Chakraborty, a member of the Bansdroni Book Fair organising committee.

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