Little Mags: A Special Niche In Kolkata Book Fair
At one corner, like the jewel in the crown resides the Little Magazine pavilion.
A book that leaves the house never comes back. This is a feeling which haunts me as a publisher for the last 10 years.
A publisher? Before anyone winces, let me humbly add, a publisher of little magazines.
Little magazines (you can always look up the wiki for a definition to come close to the understanding of the phenomenon) as we had always boasted of, is our space, the space for free-lance, non-conformist writers. Or that’s what we always thought it to be before the Internet came and brought along droves of e-magazine.
Yet, the love for the printed words remains predominant to the people of Bengal and to Bengalis all over. That is why it is not only the Kolkata Book fair which is thronged by thousands but almost at the same time of the year there are several book fairs in the several districts of West Bengal as well.
The Kolkata Book Fair almost marks the end of the festive season which starts with the Durga Puja , followed by the Kolkata Film Festival, the music festivals, the little magazine melas and the theatre festivals in a span of 3-4 months in the sultry winters of Kolkata.
It was indeed of conjecture to many when the book fair shifted its venue from the plush Maidan to its new home in Milan-mela along the bypass – whether the shift will hold the crowds or not. The doubts were dispelled in the first year itself, with sales beefing up even more.
As I was making circles round the fair for a possible parking on Feb 4 and seeing literally thousands swarm in to the fair (it was a holiday to most of the Government employees and academic institutes due to Saraswati Puja) I could probably understand what the fair means to the crowd.
Even if we complain of dwindling reading patterns amongst the kids and youth of modern India and we jibe at the food stalls making more profit than many a bookstall in the fair, there is no denying that the percentage of book-lovers far outweighs the casual visitor.
And from politics to religion, from fantasy to fiction, from poetry to science – you have it all. And alongside, at one corner, like the jewel in the crown resides the Little Mag pavilion. It is vibrant – with slender, slim books of different sizes and shapes, people stringing the guitar or a publisher hawking his product in some unique style, a self published poet covering himself with banners and pages of his own book – you will find all of them.
From the small towns and cities outside of Kolkata to the corporate professionals of the metro – you know little magazine squarely levels us all – keeps us rooted to the reality of the land. There are big hopes, lofty dreams and yet a penchant to remain subdued and less pompous outwardly in small, subtle ways which makes the little magazine dream fluttering high.
From the college-goer to the retired civil servant, the fair paints everyone warm with saturated hue. Like everything else, there are several objections, questions even severe repulsions about some of the attributes of the little magazine enclave, the little magazines themselves and the fair in general – but that is a different story for some other day.
As I move out of the fair and drive back home, I leave the ground which was so vibrant moments ago.
Does the fair feel sad as we all walk out of it?
Does she feel desolate when we leave her for the last time on the last day, only with a promise to return a year later?
Or does she also feel that a person leaving the fair never comes back the same to her ever?
Editor’s Note: Amitava Nag co-publishes the Bengali little magazine “Rosatol” on “romyo rochona” (belles-letteres or satirical, humorous, dark comic literature). He edits the cinema magazine Silhouette, which is also a little mag in flavour and mood.