Into the world of books

ONE-STOP SHOP: For the love of reading. Photo: S.James   | Photo Credit: S_James

The 10th edition of Madurai Book fair is underway and the city’s book lovers are shopping for their favourite titles like never before. But the annual book fair is not just a place to browse and buy books. Over the years, the event has evolved as a platform for budding writers, small-time poets, artists, local litterateurs and bloggers to mingle, discuss, exchange ideas and brainstorm on history, society and environment. Among this breed of writers are the old and the young, men and women and people from various walks of life. Most of them have typically published a book or two and are locally recognised for their writings in vernacular newspapers or journals, blogs and the social media.

‘Kavingar Muthuvelan’, a septuagenarian visits the fair every day without fail, sits at the stalls and chats with people known and unknown. As a former Tamil journalist, he is full of interesting stories and memories which he shares. “It’s a pleasure to be amidst books and people who love books. Since the past week, during my regular visits to the fair, I have befriended many writers. I never knew, small town Madurai has so many aspiring poets, short-story writers and even novelists,” says Muthuvelan.

Sridharan, a blogger from Srivilliputtur has plonked in Madurai for the entire duration of the fair. He has been allotted a stall ‘Tamil Wikipedia’, where he explains the salient features of the Tamil Online platform and encourages people to use it. As an active user of Wikipedia in Tamil, Sridharan has written over 600 articles and edited over a 1,000. “I learnt to use the internet from my college-going son. Now, I at least feed in two articles a day,” he says. He traverses different towns and districts for stories. “Though I don’t derive any monetary benefit out of this, I feel accomplished seeing the number of followers who read my stories online.” He is currently documenting the important temples in Tamil Nadu on Wikipedia.

The evening shows of pattimandram and talks by celebrated Tamil writers, scholars and orators like K. Gnanasambandan and Solomon Pappiah are also a hit among the visitors. “This year, we have also introduced ‘meet the author’ programme where new-age writers, famous columnists and veteran journalists discuss their works and share their thoughts with the people,” says Rathan Adam Socrates, Associate Joint Secretary, The Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association of South India, the organisers of the fair.

With over 250 stalls and 2,00,000 titles, the fair is much bigger than the previous editions. The organisers are expecting to clock more than 5,00,000 visitors by the end of the fair. The collection of books this year too is predominantly Tamil with little space for English books and novel. Tamil Classics of Chandilyan and Kalki continue to sell like hot cakes while health/sports/exercise related books are said to have found favour among readers. Socrates informs that books of Dr.A.P.J. Abdul Kalam find more takers. “There’s a huge fan following for Kalam’s books. Almost every stall has at least two of his works and everyone from students and children to the mature readers pick one of them. ‘Wings of Fire’ remains the most sold,” he says.

One interesting stall at the fair is the ‘Saraswati Mahal Library Publications’, a Tanjavur-based publishing house that has converted old palm-leaf manuscripts into books. Founded by the illustrious Tanjore Maratha King Serfoji II, the Saraswati Mahal library houses thousands of palm-leaf manuscripts in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit and Marathi. “Serfoji is said to have been an expert in many languages and he had collected and documented the manuscripts,” says M. Nehru, record clerk at the library, managing the stall at the fair. “They are mostly on Ayurveda and siddha medicine, astrology, shilp shastra and Temple architecture. We have converted the real text from the manuscripts to books, some are translated and abridged.”

The book fair is on at Tamukkam Grounds till September 7, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Entry is free.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 5:13:32 PM |

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