The Ekushey Grantha Mela 2020 at Bangla Academy and adjacent Suhrawardy Udyan premises has literally turned into an amusement park where booklovers, students, academicians, writers as well as young authors, unite in a festive mood everyday. People of all ages come to the month-long fair to enjoy recreation in a secure and protected area with family members or friends and having pleasure while relaxing.
An increasing number of readers and writers are turning up at the fair as it hit the 15th day on Sunday. However, most of them were seen browsing titles and showing curiosity about new arrivals. Talking to some book sellers, they said that their sale has increased as the book fair animated with thousands of booklovers.
Enjoying interval from daily toil at routine life, couples, teenagers and groups of young people are seen whiling away their time at the fair. Talking to Bangladesh Post, Humayun Rashid Abir who came at the book fair from Laxmipur to buy his favourite book, said, “Amar Ekushey book fair turned into a heaven for book readers.”
“There are many books which I still wish I could buy,” said Dhaka University political science department third year student Asif Akram, who came to the fair along with his friend Israfil from philosophy department, said that they came to fair and exchanged book of acclaimed writer Ahmed Sofa’s GabhiBittanta as gifts. He said the Suhrawardy Udyan and Bangla Academy premises turn into his favourite destination for an evening walk during the book fair.
Not everyone from the university is looking for pleasure readings. Some are gathering materials for their current semesters. Jannatul Ferdous Brishty, a student of Women and Gender Studies, is one of them. “The close proximity of the fair allows me to check new titles related to my studies,” Brishty explained. She said lucrative discounts brought down the expenses. “We even find rare books unavailable at our department’s library,” she added.
For many first-timers, including new DU students, the month-long festival offers a great experience. Tanjir, a first-year psychology student said the fair was mesmerizing. “I’ve always dreamt of coming here,” He said. “It’s my first visit and I feel it’s a dream come true.”
The fair gives a nostalgic vibe. Private company employee raselshafique, a former student of Dhaka University, insisted that coming to the fair had become a routine since her university days. “The stalls have changed, new students have taken our place, but the fair is still a place where I find a breath of fresh air,” she said. “Apart from the books, the fair is also a place to find old friends.”
Seminars and events held at the fair also attract many people such as SajibKumer Paul, a student of DU Journalism department. “They help expand my understanding of many things,” He said. SabbirSakhawat, a third-year DU student, said “The fair is a fuel for the soul,”
“You cannot imagine any other literary festivals on this scale in Bangladesh where one is surrounded by books, books, and books.” This year Bangla Academy has set the theme of the fair as “Birth Centenary of Bangabandhu” dedicated to the iconic leader, marking his birth centenary
The authorities have allotted 179 units at the Bangla Academy ground to 126 organizations and 694 at the Suhrawardy Udyan to 434 organizations and a total of 34 pavilions have been allocated this year. The fair will remain open from 3pm to 9pm from Sundays to Thursdays; and from 11am to 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. On February 21, the fair will remain open from 8am to 8pm.
BSS adds; Amar Ekushey Book Fair has brought out opportunities for youths to make a quick buck and gathering experiences by working as stall attendants at different publishing houses, private organisations and companies.
As the fair is the highest spending season of the year, publishing houses hire additional salespersons to cope with the fair rush while different company hire youths, mostly university students, for publicity of their products and thus, it is become an income source and a great way of gathering experience.
The payment of the stall attendants varies from Taka 7,000 to Taka 10,000 for the entire month. Working as stall attendants is a great way to gather experiences and a way of being self-reliant along with continuing studies, youths said while talking to reporters.
Rafid Ajmain Khan, a third-year student of Dhaka University (DU), said the book fair is an amazing learning place for the youths like him. “I enjoy dealing with customers. This part-time job has offered me an opportunity to get real life experiences and training which will be helpful to pursue my career as an event management professional,” he said.
A third-year student of Home Economics College Jannatul Maowa Moni, who has been working at ‘Genius Publication’, said she was too happy to do such a job which helped to supplement her income. Over and above everything else though, this temporary job is valued by the students for bringing them closer to the writers, she added.
Shanta Sheikh, a second-year student of New Model Degree College, said, “Despite getting financial support, working as a stall attendant I get the chances to meet many noted writers and poets in the fair that’s why I like it.”
Fuad, a DU student, said that he had been working for BKash, a mobile financial service, to gain some experience before entering the job market. He said the money will definitely help, but it is the experience that matters the most.
Marketing Executive of ‘Kotha Prakash’ Mohammad Yunus said, “We run our outlet with four staff throughout the year. But at the beginning of month of language, we have employed 11 part-timers to handle the fair rush.” This year, around 873 units have been allocated to 560 publishing houses and organisations to sell and exhibit their books and publications, creating opportunities for the young people.
On Sunday, presence of the visitors was remarkable throughout the day. The fair will be open for the visitors from 3pm to 8pm every day. On holidays, it will be open from 11am to 8:30pm and on February 21 it will open at 8am and continue till 8:30pm.