After nearly a month of debates, and views for and against, the Bangla Academy Ekushey Book Fair is set to begin on March 18. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to inaugurate the event virtually from her Gonobhaban residence. Instead of its month-long duration, this year the festivity centring around book publication and the readers' assemblage is set to be in place till April 14. It means it will be held for 28 days. During this time-frame the book fair venues at Bangla Academy and the Suhrawardy Udyan will celebrate the golden jubilee (fiftieth anniversary) of independence. As can be expected, the participating publishers are bringing out assorted books on the 1971 Liberation War, the long history of Bengalees' independence struggle, its leaders, especially Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the many aspects of the country's socio-economic progresses.
This year's Ekushey Book Fair would have been a pageant-filled occasion. Apart from buying books marking Bangabandhu's 2020 birth centennial and the 50th anniversary of the country's independence, readers are expected also to look for their favourite books. The Covid-19 pandemic at one time prompted many to mull cancelling this year's Ekushey Book Fair. They presented the cases of cancellation of many such fairs and cultural events around the globe due to Covid-19 pandemic. Others opted for organising the fair online. According to insiders, this year the number of stalls and pavilions at the fair would be higher than in the past. An increased number of book stalls may also result in higher turnout of visitors. This will necessitate a foolproof enforcement of the pandemic-time health guidelines like social distance, wearing of masks, body temperature checking etc.
Since its large-scale professional start on the Bangla Academy premises in the early 1980s, the fair's duration had continued to increase. From total seven-15 days in the month of February every year, the duration of Ekushey Book Fair got fixed for the whole February after a few years. In the cultural milieu of Dhaka, the book fair became synonymous with the month of February. Unlike other commemorative events, the main purpose of the book fair was a bid to pay tribute to the 1952 Language Movement martyrs. The Ekushey Book Fair thus emerged as an occasion to celebrate the nation's literary-cultural achievements in a solemn atmosphere in the whole month of February. The fair was given a formal identity --- Amor Ekushey Granthamela. In its four-decade history, it is for the first time that the book fair has been shifted to March-April thanks to the onslaught of the pandemic.
A great nature-borne spoiler looms over the coming fair. During March-April it swoops on the country in the form of nor'westers and bouts of dust and rain. The Ekushey Book Fair has had to put up with downpours only occasionally. Except for small structural harms done to a few stalls, those downpours didn't leave much impact on the whole fair. Fair organisers said this year they would raise sheds to protect people from rain. In the whole of Bangladesh, March and April are the two dreaded months. That the organisers have demonstrated their courage to arrange the fair in an adverse season, amid insidious Covid-19 resurgence, speaks of their emotional attachment to the golden jubilee of independence and the Bangabandhu centennial. Everybody wishes the 2021 book fair a grand success.