Since its initiation in 1972, the Ekushey Book Fair has come a long way towards becoming one of the most successful annual occurrences. This year, it has had the highest number of participants from five hundred and fifty publishers. The month-long fair started on the first of February at Bangla Academy, and by extension, the Suhrawardy Udyan.
The Amar Ekushey Book Fair is open for all, and it is usually teeming with people almost every day of the month that it operates. It might be overwhelming for people who have not visited the book fair before. "It always feels too crowded with too many stalls and options, so initially I had been reluctant to go," remarked a student from a private university in Dhaka. Thus, it is always good to have a plan of action to make the most out of a visit to the Ekushey Boi Mela.
First, there are usually events at the fair itself. Every weekend, the first two hours of the fair in the morning is dedicated to children. It is called "Shishu Prahar" (hours for the children), and there is children's storybook reading, colourful mascots playing with the children, and so much more fun to be had. For anyone wanting to spend quality time with his or her young family members, or even indulge in such activities themselves, visiting the book fair in the morning of weekends would be optimum. "I took my ten-year-old little brother to the book fair with me, and he had a blast. It was my favourite part of the visit," said a first-year student of Jahangirnagar University.
Apart from this, popular authors of the books at the fair make visits every year and sign the books that they have published. Finding out when a particular author one adores will be at the fair and meeting them adds a cherry on top of the book fair experience. Finding out when a particular author will be at the book fair is just a Google or Facebook search away. "It was amazing to meet Ayman Sadiq at the book fair last year, I bought his book and had it signed by him," commented a second-year HSC student of BIAM Model School and College.
Every year, thousands of books are published during February for their premiere at Amar Ekushey Boi Mela. The old favourites are always there too. There are hundreds of stalls set up in a vast space. The booths at the fair typically have books from specific publishers, authors, or by genre. It is convenient to get a general idea about which booth is stocked with what books. One can make a list of books to buy from the book fair before going, and list down the booths in which one might be able to find these. Doing so would ensure that the visit is organised and not overwhelming, or to give a direction of where to go.
"I made a list of fourteen books along with the stall names, numbers and general address in the fair when I went. I did not have much time, so I had to be as organised as possible and not get lost in the crowd. I came to Dhaka only for the fair, and it was worth getting my hands on these books I had been wanting," noted a second-year university student from International University of Technology (IUT), Gazipur.
There are special discounts on book prices at various stalls during the fair. It can be cost effective to know about the stalls providing such benefits and getting a to-be-read pile of books for oneself.
The fair has become a popular spot for hanging out with friends and having a good time. Going with the right people can make any experience just that much better. There are food stalls and sheds at the fair with fuchka, bhelpuri, luchi, chaap and so on. After strolling around the fair for a while, it can be refreshing to take a food break and to talk.
This year, the Switch Bangladesh Foundation has taken an initiative to provide wheelchairs for people with special needs, senior citizens, and anyone needing them. The wheelchairs can be found at the TSC circle, which is where vehicles are cut off from going farther. By giving them a call beforehand, they become ready to receive people at the TSC circle. Furthermore, students on campus can call the service to have someone pick them up from their dorms to go to the book fair. This initiative is a humanitarian step towards being inclusive of people with special needs, people who are not able to experience the charms of the fair as the majority do.
The Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela facilitates in shaping the minds of the youth in Bangladesh. Since its beginning, it has honoured the immortality of those who lost their lives to preserve the language so ardently loved. It is a call back to the roots for the people of Bangladesh, to revel in the language for which many had sacrificed their lives.
Raiysa Zuwairiyah is a second year student of BBA programme at IBA, University of Dhaka. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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