Kannal Achuthan

Identity cards mandatory for entry pass

CHENNAI: If you plan to visit the floating book fair on the Doulos ship this weekend, prepare yourself for a wait of at least an hour just to get the tickets.

The response to the fair on Friday, Tamil New Year day, was so overwhelming that issue of tickets stopped at 3 p.m. when the maximum number of 2,500 visitors per day was reached.

From 10 a.m. till 2 p.m., people stood in the heat at the Secretariat parking lot, where tickets and port entry passes were issued. Visitors started lining up at 9 a.m. At about 11 a.m., about 300 people were waiting for tickets.

The reason for the long, tiresome wait was the identity card checking for every visitor (except those below 16 years) before issuing of passes. With less than 10 counter staff, the crowd was simply too big to handle. Tempers frayed under the blistering sun as visitors tried to jump the queue. The fact that some visitors did not bring identity cards added to the confusion. A family of eight from Avadi had to go back because some of the members did not have their cards. An early-bird family from Tambaram was at the ticket counter at 9.30 a.m. but ended up waiting in the queue at noon as they had to go bring their cards.

Emilie Noteboom, project co-ordinator of Doulos visit to Chennai, said that identity cards for visitors was mandatory as the port required it for the entry pass. Ms. Noteboom regretted that people who came for tickets after 3 p.m. were turned away. She added that steps would be taken to quicken the process of issuing tickets.

For visitors to the fair, here's a must-do tip: Carry umbrellas, caps and water. Although iced tea, noodles and some bakery products are sold in stalls near the ticket counter, carrying snacks for children is recommended. However, bags are not allowed on board the Doulos. Payment for books bought has to be made only in cash.

The ship is docked at the Chennai port till May 8. From Tuesday to Saturday, it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays and Mondays, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee is Rs 50 (free for children under 16, but they must be accompanied by an adult).