This Poila Baisakh, the Publishers and Booksellers Guild will try to give a tradition a twist for the better.
The organisers of the Calcutta Book Fair have planned a Nava Varsha Boi Utsav (New Year Book Festival) at College Square, in the heart of boi para.
The festival has on its menu a host of authors to provide a booster dose to adda and similar events that revolve around books.
The tradition of authors, publishers and bibliophiles congregating on College Street on the first day of the Bengali New Year to discuss and debate books and writings over food and music started in the 1970s. Since long it has remained entrenched, even if participation has dwindled.
The Utsav, a first by the Guild, will be a seven-day affair beginning April 14, the day before Poila Baisakh. About 80 bookstalls will be set up around the College Square pool. Entry will be free. It will be open from noon to 8pm.
Other than discussions by popular authors from the Bengali literary world, the Guild has decided to jazz up things with snazzy programmes — including a Bangla-style fashion show — and soirees by some of the hottest musicians every evening.
“College Street had witnessed Bengal’s renaissance with its leading lights Vidyasagar, Rammohan Roy and Rabindranath Tagore walking this road steeped in history,” said Tridib Chatterjee, the secretary of the Guild.
“There was this grand tradition of authors and book lovers meeting and interacting on Poila Baisakh. This Utsav is an attempt to breathe life into a tradition around a historic meeting place, the College Square.”
The festival will begin on April 14 with a procession from BB Ganguly Street around 5pm. Authors Shirshendu Mukherjee, Shankar, Nabaneeta Dev Sen and several others will travel in phaeton carriages to College Square.
College Square will be converted into rural Bengal with mud huts, chaandi mandaps and palanquins waiting to carry passengers.
“We have made arrangements for visitors to get a feel of the old hand-run bioscope and manual rice-grinding levers that were so much a part of old Bengal,” Chatterjee said.
“Besides, there would be a poets’ meet and cultural programmes featuring prominent names from Bengal.”