The Faizabad book fair was organized during 30 October to 7 November 2018. We planned to visit it on 1st November after a day had passed and the vendors had put up their stalls and settled down. The governor of U.P. was scheduled to visit on 2nd November, so 1st was the best option.
Overall the event was nicely organized and most of the problems we usually come across in such events in U.P., and in fact all over the country, were absent. Crowd was not heavy, people were more concerned and disciplined, hygiene and order was maintained throughout. Reception desk was the first thing you would come across as soon as you entered the venue, though at the time we went there, the desk was empty.
Without a single exception, all stalls were organised painstakingly and all the personnel deserve full credit for the effort. Some vendors demonstrated their skills and expertise in the task by placing books according to genre, language and subject, making it easy for customers and visitors to browse through the stock. It is wonderful to see how all these people know the names and position of all the books in their stock.
As the fair was held in U.P., it was not surprising that several publishers of Hindi literature were present. It is a welcome gesture and provides an opportunity to the public to become familiar and familiarise themselves with the books published in their language. We saw people of all ages from 8 to 80 making rounds of the venue and hopping from one stall to the other. The publishers definitely have an idea which books are in higher demand and accordingly they had kept multiple copies of the same book. On the other hand, one could ascertain the quality of a book and how much demand it commands just by having a look at the number of copies placed in the stalls. One pleasant observation was the stellar position occupied by Srilal Shukla’s Raag Darbhari and Premchand’s masterpiece Godan. Going by numbers, these books have definitely crossed the barriers of time. However, no comparison could be made among these two books on account of the fact that the copyright of Godan has already expired so different versions from different publishers are available, whereas Raag Darbari is as yet published only by Rajkamal Prakashan.
Among the publishers which participated the event were Rajpal publishers, Rajkamal – Radhakrishna – Lokbharati Publication House, Prabhat Prakashan, Vani Prakashan, National Book Trust – Kitabghar, Yug Nirman Yojana, Gitapress and several others. Sometimes you would come across editions of same book published by different publishers, of course, with difference in price and quality. It was so mostly in the case of classics. Vani Prakashan books are on the more expensive side, followed by Prabhat and Rajpal. If one makes a balance between price and quality then definitely Rajkamal Publication House is the obvious winner. But the pleasant surprise which came to me by attending this fair was how the near-monopoly of Rajkamal Publishers is challenged by National Book Trust (NBT). Not only the paper quality of the books published by NBT is exceptional, even the prices are ridiculously low. Another factor which makes NBT stand out from the rest of the crowd is its publication of non-fiction books. The impression which I got from their stall was that their overall focus is on educating the masses and encourage serious thinking on a variety of subjects. History, science, environment are some of their subjects which need special mention. If you happen to visit any book fair with your family, make sure that your children go to the NBT stall. Unless you go there in person, there is very less chance that you would ever come to know that such books were ever written and had even existed.
At the centre stage cultural programs were going on which included dance competitions for schoolchildren. Purists may frown at the incongruity here. But I really liked the idea. Mostly people were busy with the book stalls, and only when they were tired of walking and standing did they sat in the podium. The songs and music only added to the colour of the fair. In the same way the drawing exhibition by students of fine arts from Ram Manohar Lohiya University brought a different colour to the event. The theme of the sketches was people and culture of Faizabad and Ayodhya. Though I doubt how the exhibition contributed to the overall theme of the event, still the fair gave an opportunity to the students to exhibit their work in front of such large audience and also familiarise the latter with their culture and heritage. Only lapse was that mostly the artists were not present at the place so the visitor was left alone to guess what the work was about.
One grave mistake made by the organisers was the complete absence of food and refreshment stalls. I perfectly well understand the havoc such stalls create and the amount of garbage they produce. Still, at least some arrangement of water was expected. As the venue was within city, people could satiate their hunger by just walking out of the venue. Another thing which was lacking was sufficient seating arrangements. Considering the long time it takes to go through all the stalls, even the healthiest people do get tired, and in such case they didn’t have any place to rest other than the stage where the dance competition was going on.