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A world to itself

National Book Trust-organised mega book fair in Delhi was a place for readers and writers to engage in discussions upon their shared love of the written word

A world to itself

Books, book fairs and literature festivals were on my agenda this week for while it was snowing in the Charleville campus, your columnist was engaged with the launch of the fourth edition of the Valley of Words, the governing council of the BN Yugandhar Centre for Rural Studies, attending the National Book Trust (NBT)-organised mega book fair with an excellent theme pavilion on Gandhi as a writer (both in New Delhi) and now at Bhopal for the 'Heartland Voices' festival at the picturesque Bharat Bhawan where I am in a panel discussion on the 'future' of the Civil service, which will be the theme for the next week. All this goes on to show that there is a new resurrection in the world of letters and readers wish to engage with those who write, critique and discuss books. As a matter of fact, the more one delves into this world, the more one realises that books have found a niche for themselves which will outlast any traditional expectations for the medium.

Let me start with the Valley of Words. The website of the fourth edition, with an online registration facility, was formally launched by Dharmendra and Mridula Pradhan at New Delhi and the focus will be on the best books published in the last calendar year in seven categories: fiction and non -fiction in Hindi and English, translations from regional languages into Hindi and English and writings for young adults. The offer of Power Finance Corporation (PFC ) to take over the REC VoW book awards ensures that there would be a continuity in recognising the best creative minds in all these genres. Another major highlight this year will be the exhibition of Hindi/ Hindustani newspapers published outside India, especially in the pre Independence period and the ICCR Chair Dr V Sahasrabudhe has extended institutional support for this endeavour and we look forward to receiving Hindi journalists from across the world, besides a discussion on books inspired by Gandhi, a theme which is similar to the one enunciated by the NBT. Valley of Words is also committed to present more offerings from the regional languages and translations, for so much is just not available to the reading world because it is not in English.

Walking around the different halls and exhibitions at the NBT is a great experience. There is a different feel to be surrounded by so many books, book signing sessions and discussions on a very wide range of themes. From illustrated volumes ( including Shankar's cartoons ) at Children's Book Trust to philosophical tomes from Munshiran Manoharlal, one can be transported to so many different worlds in a matter of minutes (if not seconds). From a panel discussion on Gandhi's approach to cowardice and non-violence to sessions on contemporary poetry in Uganda, launches of scores of books and the general bonhomie on meeting friends and publishers and buying books at discounted prices, walking through the stalls piled with books waiting to be read is such an experience. This also leaves me convinced that a book fair and a festival of the arts must walk hand-in-hand!

Dr Sanjeev Chopra is the Director of LBSNAA and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun. Views expressed are strictly personal

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