After an 8 year gap, I made it to the Kolkata Boi Mela yesterday. Replete with old memories of multiple visits to this most wonderful mela, alone, with friends, browsing, buying, breathing books (and dust thown up by a million feet), long queues for tickets, little magazine sellers earnestly plying their books....Ah! [And the ISKON cake shop where being allergic to eggs, I asked if the cakes were eggy and scandalised the swamiji at the counter, who put his hand to his ears and said, what else, but "Krishna, Krishna"]!
I finally found the time to visit the fair yesterday, the penultimate day, and was dreading the last minute crush [I adviced an american visitor to our office to attend the mela not only for all things bookish but to experience real life what a crush is]. The venue was not the only thing which had changed, as I found out.
I went in, visited a few stalls, got lucky within half an hour .... in that I found a relatively smaller and emptier stall where I picked up 7 books and the 8th in another 5 minutes...a quick dekho and was out in maybe 45 minutes. And then I walked past the ITC Sonar Bangla via it's service road, to the car park guided politely by several volunteers, policemen, attendants....
Imagine the scale? Lakhs and lakhs of visitors per day...lakhs of cars, at the crossing of 2 rather busy roads and that too by Kolkata standards [and maddening by any other country standard], unruly Bengali crowd [me included...a policeman ticked me off for walking on the road and told me to hurry up to the entrance to the walkaway parallel to the road and bordered by a bamboo fence. As soon as I got a little away from him, I sneaked in through the fence and straight to the ticket counter in front of me, instead of queuing up the mile long walkaway and felt rather pleased with myself instead of feeling ashamed]. The point I am trying to make is that being an average Bengali, am sure there are several queue jumpers / cutters like me and yet a battalion of policemen and attendant, alert keeping things going smoothly and not sleeping on the job ... and yet another horde of attendant controlling the car park. Phew!
Somethings ofcourse don't change. The dust...bhaiya [our driver] at the wheel and me on the back seat, coughed in tandem all the way back home!
And now, the dilemma, as always: Which book to begin with? I have them spread out in front of me....while I savour the thought of reading them, after I solve the problem of order of reading, ofcourse.
And the image above is this year's theme: Scotland and apparently Alexander McCall Smith was there as chief guest. Did want to go meet him and perhaps have a small adda about Mma Precious Ramotswe of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency....but the queue outside the Scottish Pavilion was a bit daunting even for a seasoned Kolkattan like me. Another time, Mr. Smith.