The three of us who walked into the YMCA grounds in Chennai to sample the books at the Chennai Book Fair 2015 made a motley crew. A middle aged professional, a fussy old lady and a simian youngster. Each I suspect had an ulterior motive all connected with books.
The book fair itself was a tremendous affair. Row after row of book stalls put up by local publishing book houses with heaps and heaps of books piled inside each stall. The air was stifling but with an entry fee of just 20 rupees per head for the adults it was a steal. I have never attended a book fair and this was a great opportunity, Sun, Heat and Dust notwithstanding.
My nephew, the monkey minded imp who till then was entertained by the rickshaw ride and fair grounds went straight to the first stall, pointed to a couple of books designed to entice kids with suitable colors and plotlines, purchased them and decided he had had enough of this whole expedition. Following this, he proceeded to employ all transparent trickery and bullying tactics to get him home at the earliest so that he can start reading his book. Of course, I had anticipated this and sent him packing with his grandma leaving me to wander around. The only slight inconvenience being I could not linger around Amar Chitra Katha stalls without a proper excuse.
Who knew the little fellow was so devious!
I however comfort myself that he had his share of comeuppance from his younger brother, an even more independent minded loud mouthed bully. All of 2 or 3 years.
Meanwhile at the book-fair, as far as English authors’ popularity goes, R K Narayan, P G Wodehouse and Agatha Christie seem to still rule the roost though I managed to spot some classics, paperbacks and biographies here and there. The majority of the works were in Tamil though. It was really heartening to see the amount of publishings in Tamil. Translations of all major works and new literature abounded. For some reason Hindu philosophy (Aanmikam), Pulp and Eezham (the Tamil separatist movement) were the most popular subjects.
I picked up a couple of books. The first was RK Narayan’s autobiography, My Days, which I have read at some point but is in keeping with my spirit of re discovering some of my early reading choices. A really well printed edition with a lot of illustrations by his brother RK Laxman. I also picked up a tamil translation of the malayali story teller Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer’s Paatthummayude Aadu. My reasoning being Tamil provides a closer translation of Malayalam till I attain sufficient Malayalam proficiency. I also came across a surprise find of BatManga. The Japanese take of Batman of the 70’s.
This was one great trip and am quite excited to read these gems.