The 33rd Guwahati Book Fair (30 December 2020 to 10 January 2021) will be remembered for various reasons.It was, in fact, the first big event across India during the pandemic. A huge number of publishers, writers, journalists, readers, onlookers assembled every day in the fair.
Popularly known as Guwahati Granthamela, organised by the government-run Asom Prakasan Parisad at Assam Engineering Institute playground in Chandmari in the city.The fair comprised of around 125 stalls. Books worth Rs eight crore were sold in the fair. It also witnessed a number of literary discussions, book release functions and various competitions among the children.
Formally inaugurated by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s media adviser Hrishikesh Goswami in presence of noted intellectual Tathagata Roy, renowned litterateur Yeshe Dorjee Thongshi with other dignitaries.
The twelve-day fair witnessed the impressive selling of a resourceful poetry collection by academy awardee Hiren Bhattacharyya, a new novel by another academy winner Rita Chowdhury, literary works by Phanindra K Dev Choudhury, Dhrubajyoti Bora, Anuradha Sarma Pujari, Jayanta Madhav Bora, Geetali Borah, Dambarudhar Nath, Namrata Dutta, Dhirumoni Gogoi, Pankaj Dutta, Jintu Geetartha, Abhijit Bora, Aayub Ali Sarma and others.
A novel narrating the life of a bus driver by debutant Rupam Dutta was sold like hot cakes, where an Assamese classic ‘Asimat Jar Heral Seema’ by Kanchan Baruah, a biography of veteran Congress leader Tarun Gogoi, the Assamese translation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s letters to his mother by Utpal Dutta also received well responses from the visitors.
In a session discussing on post-corona challenges and possibilities by the book (publication) industry, various speakers were in unanimous that the pandemic had severely affected the sector including and also the physical newspapers, but at the same time it helped to increase the number of committed readers precisely among the new generation.
The session was also addressed by some young publishers including Pritima Kaushik Barua, Manish Hazarika, Dhiraj Lahkar, Amrit Upadhaya, Farhan Javed, Buljit Buragohain along with award winning Assamese author Bipul Deuri. They observed that various modern technological tools for publication, promotion and marketing would finally bring a better deal for quality publishers around the world.A stall dedicated to Bangladesh literature attracted a large number of visitors. Bangladeshi diplomat Shah Mohammad Tanvir Monsur also visited the fair. The tourism department also participated in the fair with a cute stall for the first time with an aim to disseminate information about tourism potentials in the country for domestic tourists.
Showcasing the Tibetan culture added colours to the festival as two cultural evenings were dedicated to the land of Dalai Lama.
The closing ceremony was graced by Asom Sahitya Sabha president Kuladhar Saikia and Bodo Sahitya Sabha president Taren Boro. Sumanta Chaliha, who presided over the meeting, revealed that the publication board itself sold books worth Rs 12 lakh. He also thanked State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma along with others for whole hearted supports for the fair.
— The author is a northeast India based journalist.