The best buys are the ones that you stumble upon-that is the experience which a stroll through the cool hushed ambiance of the Pune Book Fair provides one with.
Having missed the fair this year I have fond memories of it from last year. Though not on the grand lines of the New Delhi and Kolkata book fairs, the Pune Book Fair provides an important meeting ground for publishers, booksellers, book distributors, librarians, professionals, academicians and book-lovers. It cater to people with more distinct taste and expectations in literature. The topics and themes on display are slightly offbeat and many in vernacular languages which makes the event a wonderful platform for smaller or individual publishers to display their books. In turn this also offers book-lovers a truly diverse linguistic and quantitative experience, which was evident at the venue, where, books on Konkani literature, classic erotica and Falun Dafa, the banned and brutally persecuted practice in China, were all on offer, often at throwaway prices.
The exhibition, held every year at Ganesh Kala Krida manch hosts over a 100 stalls; few of which stand out more than the others. Ebrahim Aghajari, who was pursuing his Ph.D in engineering and instrumentation in Pune, ran the stall on Iranian culture. Aghajari guides you through the intricacies of Persian, Urdu and Arabic literature and the wonders of the ancient cities of Tehran and Kashan in Isfahan. He spoke softly but passionately about his country and it's rich heritage of architecture. Some old worn coffee table books with gorgeous pictures of the old city backed his claim. As I finally tore myself away from the exotic books and warm conversation he presented me with a quaint booklet on Iran.
In complete contrast to this quiet corner is the Lokayat, a stall that bursts with revolutionary literature, slogans and posters. Be it a dissertation on Nandigram, writings of Noam Chomsky, documentaries on the Godhra riots, Ayodhya issue or bound discussions on our post-modern world, you will surely find it here.
Magazines play a prominent part in this fair too. Rohan Book Centre which houses magazines from across the globe, is a place where one can pick up original copies of Vogue and National Geographic for a steal, apart from other lesser known but equally interesting foreign journals and publications. I found a unique copy of Black and White photography for 50 bucks. Adjacent to it is the Heritage India stall, a Pune based publication. Each page contains a slice of India's rich and varied heritage from wildlife to art and history. The magazine is beautifully packaged with high quality photographs.
The Vivek Book Depot and Pragati Book Centre are also places where with patience one can unearth good second hand books. The former especially stocks classics by Henry James, Daniel Defoe and William Makepeace Thackeray. The fair abounds in vernacular literature, be it philosophy or mythology based comic books, all is on offer in Hindi and Marathi. World Health Organization (WHO) also makes its presence felt, disseminating health information and researched publications on health problem in Africa and South – East Asia. Pune book fair is truly a hunting ground for bibliophiles.
I went to the Iranian stall again on the last day to show Aghajari his article in the newspaper but it was time for Namaz and he was in the an empty stall praying, so I left the clipping with his wife. It was sad to hear that this year this stall, sponsored by the Iran Culture House did not even sell one book on it's first day.