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Archive for January, 2011

CBF-2011

So I fulfilled my first resolution of the New Year. Ok, I did it only because I wanted to do it very badly, but still just saying. Unlike last year when I ‘saw’ the Chennai Book Fair (henceforth very creatively referred to as CBF) from a moving vehicle almost one kilometer away from the entrance, because that’s how the long the entry queues were, I ‘went’ to CBF this time. Yes! Now CBF is something that I fantasize about for a full year, and then finally don’t make it when it’s on and remain disappointed for the rest of the year. Rows and rows of books stacked high, the smell of freshly printed paper, the haphazard wandering about in narrow corridors, drinking tea off small paper cups while fingering through newly bought books, the sweet corn and pani puri stalls, ok almost everything about the fair gives me a high just thinking about it. Having spent the entire last year sulking about not being able to go, I promptly made it this time armed with loads of reccos, not-so-much of cash, a ‘carrier’ who I’ll need in case I buy LOTS of books (carrier = P, of course) and a mighty bad cold.

I had managed to snoop around the CBF venue several times during the week and my first impression  was ‘Wow, they are majorly e-ottifying(which in case you don’t know, is the highly entertaining and productive occupation of shooing away flies and mosquitoes with bare hands, without the aid of advanced technology like the kosu-bat)this year!’. There was absolutely no crowd at the Fair during weekdays but I went on a holiday expecting sparse crowds perhaps, but Chennai had other plans. Half an hour after opening time, the place was packed and parking was already becoming a pain in unmentionable places. After managing to park in a weed-filled ditch and buying entrance tickets, rushed off inside the venue and whoa, it was as big as ever! And a LOT better organized as well. There were six or seven long neat columns dotted with separate shops for individual publishers/booksellers on either side. The place was well lit and the most useful feature was the presence of these huge hoardings right at the entrance to the columns listing out the shop names and numbers that are present there. Very nice touch! I remember this being there earlier also but it was a bit haphazardly done but this time it was done well. Thanks to these hoardings I didn’t have to navigate through the entire 600 plus shops to buy my books. I could just look at the board and check for the publishers who I want to visit and directly land there. Ka-ching!

This time I had gone to CBF with my mind fixed exclusively on Thamizh books because in Tamil Nadu’s capital city Singaara Chennai, hot-shot posh bookshops find it humiliating to stock up on thamizh literature except for absolutely indispensable treasures like ’60 வகை அசைவ சமையல்’ and ’30 நாட்களில் மலையாளம் கற்பது எப்படி’. So when you find separate rows for Twilight series and Chicken soup for the Agony aunt’s soul(ok, kidding), you hardly find a single shelf allocated for Thamizh books in Landmark or Odyssey. So CBF is the only time/place to stock up on regional reading unless you are superhuman enough to know how to order books from obscure publishing houses in Madurai or Kanyakumari. So I had my mental list all ready and scanned the hoardings for Uyirmai, Kaalachuvadu, Vijaya Padhipagam and other thamizh publishers and headed straight to these stalls. I did look around a bit here and there but amidst one stall of serious thamizh literature, I found fifteen others selling Panchatantra stories and self-help trash. And, as always these stalls were the most popular, being thronged by screaming kids and house wives looking to reach their man’s heart through the most obvious route – the stomach. Nice ambience actually if you don’t mind the pushing/jostling and high decibel levels.

Among the Thamizh publishers, Uyirmai attracted the largest crowds. I was even a bit surprised to see that there was hardly any standing space inside the Uyirmai stall with people jostling with full enthu and trying to grab books vigorously from shelves. And these people weren’t even the ‘Come-here-and-I-will-give-you-a-long-lecture-on-Sangam-literature’ jolna pai-soda butti wearing intellectual old types. They were all men and women, sorry, ONLY men of my age group, all under 30 and all looking very interested in S.Ra and Je Mo as much as they would be in Mc Donald’s burgers and evenings at some pub. In fact, it was such a relief to be at the Uyirmai stall after escaping the screeching kids and their screaming mothers in the other stalls. My only gripe at the stall was that I was the ONLY girl there and I couldn’t really hustle and jostle with hundred other men to lay my hands on the books. Now this is where the ‘Carrier’ comes into picture. Given his total distaste for books and reading of any kind except the technical, knowledge enhancing variety (yes, I live full time with a creature that you-tubes ‘brush gear assembly welding’ videos for ‘fun’ and orders Advanced mechanical technology from Amazon. Build me a temple 😐 ), P was being extremely nice and considerate, deftly catching and carrying all those books I threw him while being sandwiched between Guy-wanting-Sujatha-book and Guy-wanting-Jeyamohan book. He even gave me occasional suggestions like pointing out towards Sujatha’s introduction to Silapadhigaaram and saying ‘hey, that looks like something you may want to read!’ (Though his face looked totally distorted like the book was a slime ball worm and it was something I might want to eat and not read). I was happy he at least knew it was something I might want to read. And after frantic hurling of about 20 books into his now-buckling-under-pressure arms, I finally looked a bit apologetic about such a crazy haul, he magnanimously smiled and said, ‘Oh, no problem, buy as many as you want. Stock up.’ Of course, my eyes were beginning to widen like a tea saucer so he added, ‘As long as YOU pay for them.’ Being reminded about having to pay for them was my cue and I almost ran out of the stall to stop myself from looking or touching another book only to find myself in a serpentine queue at billing. Now wait, what was that? The cashier was totaling up values on his calculator and writing out a hand bill! Hello Uyirmai, pliss to be introduced to computers and databases! As the guy was furiously scratching ineligible book names on the bill and totaling up values (as fast as he was), a couple of people even dropped out of the queue, leaving their books behind. What a way to lose precious customers, especially when you are already running losses and a huge book fair like this would be a very important opportunity to raise revenues. Uyirmai please get electronic billing and ERP next year. Trust me, it’s not all that expensive. These things come as cheap as mobile phones these days and are an investment for any self respecting business venture.

I didn’t find any major cons at CBF this time. Maybe they could have had a couple of volunteers to guide people to issued pamphlets with stall locations because when the place gets crowded, it’s not feasible for a lot of people to stand near the entrance hoardings and search for the stalls they want to visit.

So there, after two hours of blissful book shopping, left the place to spend the rest of the Sunday smelling the books, reading blurbs and writing my name on all of them. After ages, a holiday well spent!

 

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