Light Bulbs and Croissants

Perhaps it was the overcast weather and resultant traffic snarls, or the fact that any event in Delhi takes a couple of days to permeate the Capital's collective consciousness but on its first day, the New Delhi World Book Fair saw a paucity of visitors. While quite a few stalls were up and running, there were several either in the process of being set up or those with packed shelves, but no people. Irate guards had a trying time telling visitors that the empty stalls were not in fact resting areas, and chasing away birds who had the same misapprehension.

Out of all the halls, numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 (which are the venues for general publishers) and number 7 (which are the venue for foreign publishers and theme pavilion) had the most traffic. Hall number 7 had art installations put up by the National Book Trust, rather bush-league works comprising objects such as trees, gigantic light bulbs and even a miniature Eiffel Tower, made up of wires and, of course, books.

In the foreign publishers pavilion, France had the pride of place, given that the Bonjour India festival is currently in full swing. And of course, being French, the stall also had a small bistro behind the bookshelves, where smiling Frenchwomen dispensed croissants, petit fours and other hors d'oeuvres. Meanwhile, an Iranian and an American publisher had stalls set up right next to each other, lending credence to the oft-stated assertion that literature crosses borders and political divides. On the other hand, out of the seven Pakistani stalls set up, only two were occupied.

Elsewhere, in the children's books section (hall number 18) worried parents raided shelves and asked stall managers for books that would ensure admission into kindergarten for their progenies. Outside, the children in question ran around shrieking with delight in the drizzle. Hopefully, the drizzle of visitors will soon swell into a flood.

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