Yet another Chennai Book Fair has come and gone. The Man from Madras Musings never misses it and this year too made it there and returned home laden with books, much to the consternation of his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed. The Fair was, as it ought to be, filled with people, books and earnest discussions. There are some who have complained to MMM about the crowds and give it as the main reason why they don’t go to the Fair. It is MMM’s standard response that a Fair is meant to have crowds and so you cannot expect anything else but that at this event as well. To MMM it is gratifying that an event centring on books draws such vast numbers in an era when Cassandras are predicting the end of the printed book as we know of it.
Having said that, MMM would like to draw the attention of the organisers to a few areas that need to improve. Having the Fair at the YMCA Nandanam is a great idea but, surely, some thought can be spared on levelling the exhibition space before laying out the stalls? The land is what geographers call as one of high relief, the topography being full of hills and dales. The organisers had simply laid out metal sheets on this, placed matting on that and erected the stalls. There was consequently no way that you could know what lurked under the mat even as you took your next step.
Standing at one particular stall, MMM suddenly found the ground giving way under his left foot, which began to go deep into the bowels of the earth. MMM had visions of being rescued using excavating machinery but some kind souls helped and after a couple of heave hos, MMM was back on flat land.
Walking over raised mounds was not much of an issue beyond mild attacks of vertigo here and there, but walking over hollows was a different matter altogether. The sheet beneath bowed under your weight and, as you lifted your foot, rebounded back on your heel with renewed force, making it feel like some third degree torture treatment meted out to worst of the opporents.
That men of books were not stern men of accounts was made amply evident at the Fair. The counters were manned by staff who took ages to add the simplest of totals and oftentimes made serious goofs in adding up. Those who had credit card payment facilities scarcely knew how to operate the machines. Most stalls wrote out the bills manually thereby slowing down the purchase process. And, finally, almost every one of the stalls expected you to come to the Fair with huge bags of loose change.
You can also read a report on an earlier book fair here