Vidya and I went to the Chennai Book Fair, and almost choked to death in the horribly crowded space there!
We knew it would be crowded, and we were prepared to wade our way through a mass of humanity. However, the crowds were even more than we had bargained for. The ticket queues were interminably long, the consolation being that those manning the ticket counters were extremely quick. Once we got our tickets, getting in was a foretaste of the crowd inside. We had to stand near the entrance and generally melt into the crowd. There was no walking, only a kind of shuffling of feet as the crowd swept us past a line of NCC cadets who tore our tickets a bit to make sure they wouldn’t be used again. We were then swept into the aisle between the stalls – this was so narrow that for about the first twenty stalls we really had no choice – there was nothing we could do to get near any of the stalls. After that the crowds eased a bit and we were able to swim to a stall we wanted to see. It involved a bit of planning and as we had to keep together, a bit of coordinated movement.
The government book stalls – National Book Trust, Children’s Book Trust, Sahitya Akademi, Publications Division – were the ones where we spent the most time. The range of books they publish is quite large and one doesn’t get to see too many of them at book shops. The publications are also priced very decently.
Finally after about a couple of hours, we had had enough of the whole thing and we left, making the resolution we make every time we go to the book fair – that next year, we would go during the first or second day, during the day when the crowds will be less. It has been five years, and this is one resolution we have managed not to keep!