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'India hotspot for bookphile'

World Book Fair in Delhi has attracted international bigwigs from publishing world, writes Vijaya Sharma.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2004 21:11 IST
INDIA DIARY | Vijaya Sharma
INDIA DIARY | Vijaya Sharma

The World Book fair is back again in Delhi. It is especially special this time with Delhi being declared the Book Capital of the World.

It is a pleasure walking down the sprawling grounds of the Pragati Maidan, the venue for the book fair, with its 10000 sq. mtrs of open display area. Music wafts in the air, the spring winds ruffleyour hair and the sparkling, mellow sunshine gently smiles down at you.

International Director of the Publishers's Association, UK, Ian Taylor, in Delhi to attend the book fair and a regular visitor to the fair in Delhi, says it is always a pleasure to attend the fair in Delhi as it has a better ambience than the Frankfurt fair and other big fairs. Says Taylor: "The other fairs are held in those closed auditoriums which make you feel stuffy. But here, it is always wonderful to take a walk around, visit the stalls, come out into the open grounds again and move on to another stall. It is the best time of the year to hold the fair. And the music at the Maidan, I like that too," he adds with a smile.

Pragati Maidan complex in Delhi, venue for the 16th World Book Fair

The complex was founded in 1982 on the eve of Asian Games. A veritable pride of the capital , Pragati Maidan offers over 62000 sq. metres of covered exhibition space in 16 halls with an excellent offering of Indian and continental cuisine at the food plazas. The food is so very welcome there because just a simple stroll in the vast grounds is enough to make you feel hungry.

Taylor also pointed out that as compared to book fairs such as the Frankfurt and the Bologna fair which are considered far more important, it is the two Asian fairs - the one in Beijing and in India he considers the most important because they have a significant home market. Frankfurt does not - people come there for trade, Italy does not - people come to Bologna only because of the children's book fair.

"India is strong in doing its own publishing," Taylor says. He also finds the reading public in India comparatively better than Beijing - more sophisticated, more open to foreign publications as India also has a larger English-speaking population. So it has a huge market for English publications. In Beijing it is still translations and reprints that dominate. It is only recently in China that there is a burgeoning demand for all things western in design, fashion whereas India is already kind of used to such things.

Taylor added: The fair is very well organised, too. None of the foreign delegates I have met have complained about the way it has been organised.

That the World Book Fair in Delhi has been growing in importance can also be gauged from the big names at the fair this year: Head of the two biggest publishing houses, Random House, UK and German media giant Bertelsmann are here and so also is the chief of the Frankfurt book fair.

It would be great if the Govt would go strong on developing the book fair as it is a good way to pull in more touristsand hence, get revenue pouring into India. Also, the fact that prices of books in India are the cheapestcompared to anywhere in the world would be a huge attraction for booklovers.

An aside from Taylor: He was very impressed with the fact that the Union Minister of State for HRD Dr Sanjay Paswan was there throughout the seminar organised on book piracy. "Back in Britain," he said, "it is rare to have a minister sit through an entire seminar. He would be there for say 10 minutes and then leave with a "Sorry, I have an important meeting" or at the nth hour would send say, his personal assistant to be at the seminar with his message.

Starry, starry polls

Sudha Chandran aka Ramola Sikand of Kaahin Kissii Roz

The poll juggernaut rolls on. The BJP is busy gathering film and TV stars in its kitty. It has recently acquired Smriti Malhotra the ideal


of the popular telly soap

Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi

. More recently it has acquired Sudha Chandran, the formidable


Ramola Sikand with her designer bindis of the soap

Kahin Kisi Roz

. Popular Telugu film stars Suman and Sharat Babu have also joined the BJP. From Bollywood, it isSuresh Oberoi. The party already has stars such as Hema Malini and Vijay Shanti supporting it.

Pramod Mahajan leads the BJP's aggressive pitch and campaign and has caused stars being snatched away from the Congress. Suresh Oberoi is one instance and only yesterday, Navjot Singh Siddhu, former Indian batting star, now more famous for his Siddhuisms and his crackling banter with Geoff Boycott as a cricket commentator, was in talks with Congress. Today we hear he has joined the BJP.

The Congress is losing out on popular names to pull in crowds for its poll campaign. Though stars might proclaim that it is the BJP's policies which have won them over to its side the reason seems very clear: The BJP-led NDA and its impressive performance in the assembly polls has further eroded the Congress credibility as a party which, as of now, can sell and gell well with the masses. They screen stars have hitched their wagon to the rising political stars of the BJP. Party ideologies and values matter little and are given just as impressive sound bytes. Today if the Congress was on the ascendant, we would all know on which horizon the stars would shine and glitter.

But to say that star appeal will translate into winning votes for the party for sure is a long shot. The electorate does know that once the polls are over, what they need is a leader to look after their daily problems of roti, kapda and makaan and the stars surely will not ensure that.

Don't worry, be happy
A panacea for all ills, heard recently from a priest at Jagannath Puri Temple in Orissa, one of the four holy dhams (shrines) for Hindus:
Don't fear, Jagannath is here

First Published: Feb 17, 2004 11:48 IST