A Joyful Experience

...from Hooghly to Hyderabad and beyond.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kolkata Book Fair 2008 - A few images

Do you know Mr. K. C. Paul? Not the famous umbrella manufacturer but the astronomer? No? Well, he has made one of the greatest discoveries of our era and spent the last four decades trying to convince people that his discovery is true. He has written books, given interviews on the media, and filled the walls of Kolkata and Howrah with graffiti preaching his theory. I had been reading his graffiti since my childhood days. But it was only in this year's Kolkata Book Fair that I had the fortune to meet him in person. I was photographing him, and so he gave me one of his pamphlets for free.

What is his theory? He claims he has proof that the sun goes round the earth and it is not the other way round. Is he insane? Probably, by all our standard definitions of sanity. Yet, he has the conviction and confidence that keeps him clinging to his foolish theory for forty years. And while I do not for a moment imagine his theory may be right, I cannot help think that Galileo must have been insane in his time too!

Kartik Chandra Paul is only one of the many characters one can see at the Kolkata Book Fair whose passion seem to be on the verge of madness, and one can only feel respect mixed with pity for them. This man, for instance, who sells funny books (in the photo). Just look at his banner, it says: "Buy for two rupees. You'll read for twenty minutes and laugh for half an hour. As you start reading, you'll start laughing. When you stop reading, you won't stop laughing." I visited the fair on two days, and this man was roaming around selling his books, carrying this large banner and in that posture. I wonder how many he could sell. Then there was the old artist who sat on the ground outside a stall with a stack of his paintings. He eagerly showed me some of them as I stopped by. I sadly realised that most people, including me, would rather buy a print of a European masterpiece to hang in their room rather than buy an original painting by this man. But then, that's what has been happening in the past too. Van Gogh couldn't sell a painting in his lifetime. I did not have the heart to take his photograph.

I went there twice: once with my sister to browse through books, and the second time with the Flickr Bangla Community members to do some candid photography. Although the book fair does offer wonderful opportunities for candid photography, one really needs large telephoto lenses to take pictures unobtrusively. One of my friends got into trouble because a girl had come into one of the photos that he had taken. Her boyfriend promptly snatched away his camera and dragged him into the police station, insisting on lodging a written complaint. It was really funny to see the policemen laugh at him as he became more and more furious. At one point he said he was with the Human Rights Commission, another time he said he was with the Press, and when I asked him if he knew what candid photography was, he whipped out his father's - yes, his father's - visiting card and insisted I show him respect. When I informed him with all due politeness that I did not recognise his father from his name, he asked me if I understood that his father was an IAS officer. Although my friend was a bit anxious to get back his camera at that time, we had a laugh riot later imitating that girl and her boyfriend.

The fair this year was smaller since the Publishers' and Book Sellers' Guild put its foot down on not having a book fair at all if the fair was not allowed to be held at the Kolkata Maidan. There were others, however who wanted to have the fair and it was held at the Salt Lake Stadium. Some of the big book stores didn't come. The fair was delayed by a month and the weather was really hot. Still, the queue at big stalls like Ananda Publishers was long and serpentine and stretched across the field in front of the stall. This field was full of small clusters of people who had come together and had decided to spend some time sitting in a group. As the evening progressed some sang, some brought guitars and played them. Others just sipped on cups of tea and chatted. A news channel conducted walk-in auditions for a newsreader's job. Some people were trying their skill there. Another TV channel had brought finalists of a music competition on their channel to the fair and they were performing live on request. Soap-bubble-blowing-apparatus-sellers were filling the air with bubbles and children tried to catch them. On Friday we stayed till the fair was closed at 9:00 pm. On Saturday I had to leave at 5:30 as I was going to Hooghly. By that time, it was almost impossible to see over peoples' heads in the fair ground.

Since I had grown up in Allahabad, I was unaware of the charms of the Kolkata Book Fair till 2001 when I came to college. Even then, I had gone to Allahabad on vacation during the Book Fair for the first two years. But once I had visited the fair for the first time in 2004, I eagerly wait for it every year. I missed it in 2006 since I was in Hyderabad, but was back in time for the 2007 fair. I don't know where I will be next year, but wherever I am, if it is not Kolkata then I will definitely miss the Kolkata Book Fair.

(The photos that I took in the book fair are available here)

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Blogger Shreemoyee said...

Nice writeup sugata. You wrote about it last year too I think.

1:39 PM, March 17, 2008  
Blogger km said...

Great post!

6:18 PM, March 18, 2008  
Blogger Paul Michael Bales said...

Hello there I am from England, I am trying to contact K.C Paul to buy his books and also to ask him if I van translate into English for him. I would be grateful for any help.

1:05 PM, March 22, 2014  
Blogger Raj Gaurav Debnath said...


Very nicely written. One thing i just want to know. That photo of the man who sells funny books for two rupees, did u really click that pic? I am asking this because u have copyrighted it on ur own name. If I remember correctly, that pic was clicked by me quite a few years back and I had posted it in the internet. I know that man personally. Its absolutely fine with me if u use that pic in ur Blog, but atleast don't put ur name on it with a copyright-symbol. Maybe i am wrong. Please clarify...


3:50 PM, April 23, 2014  
Blogger Joy Forever said...

@Raj Gaurav Debnath: You are mistaken. I clicked that picture at the Book Fair. I do not put the copyright on a picture unless it is clicked by me.

12:12 PM, April 24, 2014  
Blogger Raj Gaurav Debnath said...


Well then, how come I have that same picture in an old folder in my computer, and that also without ur name on it? I can send u that pic in ur FB inbox. U can see with ur own eyes that there is no difference between the two pics, except one has ur name, and the other one doesn't...


10:50 AM, April 26, 2014  
Blogger Joy Forever said...

@Raj Gaurav Debnath:That only means You downloaded it from a location other than this blog where I had not written my name on it. :-)

7:27 AM, May 01, 2014  

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