The 27th edition of the New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF), which has the UAE’s third largest emirate Sharjah as its 2019 guest of honour, was held from January 5 to 13 at Pragati Maidan. Co-organised by the National Book Trust (NBT) and the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), the Book Fair’s theme was “Readers with special needs”, especially children. It was inaugurated by Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar.
“The idea behind the theme is to generate emotions of not sympathy but respect and equality,” Baldev Bhai Sharma, NBT Chairman, told reporters, while invoking contributions of people with disabilities in arts, culture and literature.He added that an exclusive exhibition of Braille books, audio books, integrated print-braille books and books for people and children with different disabilities was showcased in the Fair’s theme pavilion. An International Disability Film Festival “We Care” presented around 45 film screenings from 27 countries including India, Canada, the US, South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, Hong Kong and several European countries.
Taking place in halls 7-12, the NDWBF has been organising literary and cultural events since 1972. Despite space constraints due to “renovation and construction” work in Pragati Maidan and availability of just “22 percent” of the total space, as per ITPO Executive Director Deepak Kumar, this edition saw stalls from over two dozen Indian languages, among several global ones. In the Fair’s authors’ corners — named Lekhak Manch, Sahitya Manch, Conversations and Reflections, visitors could hear literary discussions organised by major players in the Indian publishing industry, including Penguin Random House India, Niyogi Books, Pan Macmillan, Om Books International, Sahitya Akademi, Vani Prakashan and Prabhat Prakashan.
Sharjah, the guest participant, hosted an array of book exhibitions, literary programmes, publisher’s dialogues, book releases, poetry readings and children’s activities in their pavilion.
The Fair visitors also witnessed outside-the-pavilion shows of Emirati folk bands on the event’s first four days in Rajiv Chowk, Qutub Minar, India Gate and even Agra’s Taj Mahal. These activities were conducted keeping in mind the “shared interests” between Arabic and Indian cultures, said the Director of Fairs and Festivals at Sharjah Books Authority, Khoula Al Mujaini. The nine-day book fair also presented an exhibition of books related to Mahatma Gandhi, to mark the 150th birth centenary year of iconic figure. One of Asia’s biggest book fairs is in its 27th edition was held with 20 foreign participants including France, China, Pakistan, Poland, Italy, Canada and UAE. There were 1099 publishers in English, 286 in Hindi, 15 in Urdu, 11 in Punjabi and lesser numbers in other regional languages. But the book fair has strengthened one’s belief that books are here to stay. They are no way on their way out. The onslaught of digital media and the Kindle has had an impact on book sales and reading. But that’s no more than 20%, most participating exhibitors will tell you.
On the second day of the Fair, a discussion between Indian and UAE publishers during the seventh edition of CEOSpeak, a forum for dialogue in the publishing sector, saw the Emirati publishers underlining the need for translated works, and for Indian publishing to expand into Africa through Sharjah. Ahmed Al Ameri, chairman, Sharjah Books Authority, said, “Sharjah is the gateway to Africa for Indian publishers,” adding, “Reading and literacy are the beating hearts of Sharjah.” He said while it takes 60 days to ship from India to Africa, it takes only two weeks from Sharjah, the UAE’s third largest emirate and a free-zone in the world for publishing. He also highlighted the importance of translations for cultural exchanges and cross-border collaborations. To highlight this, at the Sharjah pavilion in the Fair, it hosted 10 emerging litterateurs from UAE and a set of 57 books translated from Arabic to Hindi. Dilip Chenoy, secretary general, FICCI, said that India is a USD 4.6 billion book market and the third largest English language print book publisher in the world, adding, “UAE accounts for a sprawling 37% of India’s total book exports to the Arab world.”