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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ocean of Books

No, there was no Nano unveiled there, as at the auto expo, yet the 18th Delhi world Book Fair was a hit, like it is every year. During the fair, Pragati Maidan, the venue, is a haven for not just those who breathe words. Even those who long to jump out of their hole in the affable weather that the otherwise hostile Delhi has in the early months take a stroll through the fair, munching goodies and watching, among others, books. This year’s fair, held from February 2 to 10, had a major part of Delhi, 12 lakh visitors, thronging the avenue. They wisely chose from, or simply flipped through the volume displayed by 1,343 participants from 22 countries (including ILO, WHO, UNICEF and EU) or just chilled out.

Giving the serious reader his due, the fair was a feast. The book stock ranged from literature on Mahatma Gandhi to Russian literature to books on the Right To Information Act to graphic novels. And making them further happy were discounts. “This event is like being in the biggest book shop ever I am having an amazing time,” gushed Chitra Khatri, a literature student.

Chitra was just one among the many who helped sales increase by almost 70% this year, according to National Book Trust official. While more than one lakh tickets were sold, school and college children, apart from librarians, were allowed free entry, thereby ensuring a steady stream of young people.

The casual visitors also had an array of programs to choose from. From known names launching their books (Salman Khurhseed and Gulzar) to novelists talking about their forthcoming works, each publishing house had something lined up to draw eyeballs. Authors were at the stalls of their publishers, awaiting their fans (and prospective fans). Chetan Bhagat, author of Five Point someone and One Night @ the Call Centre, was at the Rupa stall busy signing copies and posing for pictures. “I travel to meet my fans but events such as the book fair are a great platform to meet people,” he said.

This year’s ‘Guest of Honour Country’ at the fair, which is the biggest in the Afro-Asian region, was Russia. On the opening day, Russians dressed in traditional costumes and welcomed holding books. “I want to see if they have any Baba Yaga tales,” squealed Neha Bansal, an excited 20-year-old, who had grown up reading the tales. While books at the stalls were in Russian, there were also quite a few translations in Hindi and English. Margarita Petrova, a Russian publisher, said that most of the people visiting the stalls were interested in books on music and crafts. “We have also had children coming to our stall; the colourful illustrations and storylines have really caught their fancy.”

A major draw at the book fair was an exhibition featuring works on and by Mahatma Gandhi titled, ‘In Words and Deed’ that had close to 1200 titles. “While all of us know about Gandhi, his works and life, books give you a deeper insight into a person,” said Hari Beri, a marketing executive.

The stalls that had books on self-help were also favourite hangouts. “We have had youngsters coming either to buy books or to make enquiries,” said an Osho stall member.

However, the stall that drew a lot of crowd was the one on the RTI Act. “The book fair attracts people from all walks of life, from school children to professionals, and hence is a great platform to tell people more about RTI,” Javed Khan, who works with the NGO Kabir that set up the stall, said. People were seen leaving the stall clutching leaflets, CDs and newsletters.

And while fiction was a huge draw, another genre that was in the limelight was graphic novel, which came up in a discussion o0n the future of comic books in India. Writers like Sarnath Bannerjee and Orijit Sen voted for the genre. “Contemporary India needs a contemporary way of storytelling,” said Sarnath, while Sen felt that graphic novels are a “powerful way of telling stories as they combine so many art forms.” Apart from Bannerjee’s works, another graphic novel that is awaiting market response is Amruta Patil’s Kari.

And finally, the forecast. “According to me, 2006 was the year of young fiction, 2007 of biographies, but 2008 will be a mixed bag,” said Kapish Mehra of Rupa publications.

Though the fair began in fits and starts, (the weather played havoc), as it progressed, it got a steady flow of visitors. And it left an impact, though not on the auto expo scale.

Courtesy: “Fair Ground” by Nikita Doval (The Writers’ World), The Week, Feb.24, 2008

Books that have influenced me - Sir C.V.Raman

A purposeful life needs an axis or hinge to which it is firmly fixed and yet around which it can freely revolve. As I see it, this axis or hinge has been, in my own case, strangely enough, not the love of science nor even the love of Nature, but a certain abstract idealism or belief in the value of the human spirit and the virtue of human endeavour and achievement. The nearest point to which I can trace the source of this idealism is my recollection of reading Edwin Arnold’s great book, The Light of Asia. I remember being powerfully moved by the story of Siddhartha’s great renunciation, of his search for truth and of his final enlightenment. This was at a time when I was young enough to be impressionable, and the reading of the book fixed firmly in my mind the idea that this capacity for renunciation in the pursuit of exalted aims is the very essence of human greatness. This is not an unfamiliar idea to us in India, but it is not easy to live up to it. It has always seemed to me a surprising and regrettable fact that the profound teaching of the Buddha has not left a deeper and stronger impress on the life of our country of which he was the greatest son that ever lived.

The next of the books that I have to mention is one of the most remarkable works of all time, namely, The Elements of Euclid. Familiarity with some parts of Euclid and a certain dislike to its formalism have dethroned this great work from the apparently unassailable position which it occupied in the esteem of the learned world for an almost incredibly long period of time. …..

The ancient Greeks had a fine sense of the value of intellectual discipline; they had also a fine sense of the beautiful. They loved Geometry just because it had both these appeals. In my early years, it was a great struggle for me to learn to overcome my dislike to the formalism of Euclid and gradually to perceive the fascination and beauty of the subject. Not until many years later, however, did I fully appreciate the central position of Geometry in relation to all natural knowledge. I can illustrate this relationship by a thousand examples but will content myself with remarking that every mineral found in Nature, every crystal made by man, every leaf, flower or fruit that we see growing, every living thing from the smallest to the largest that walks on earth, flies in the air or swims in the waters or lives deep down on the ocean floor, speak aloud of the fundamental role of Geometry in Nature. The pages of Euclid are like opening bars of the music in the grand opera of Nature’s great drama. So to say, they lift the veil and throw to our vision a glimpse of a vast world of natural knowledge awaiting study.
Speaking of the modern world, the supremest figure, in my judgment, is that of Hermann von Helmholtz. In the range and depth of his knowledge, in the clearness and profundity of his scientific vision, he easily transcended all other names I could mention, including Isaac Newton. Rightly he has been described as the intellectual Colossus of the 19th century. It was my great good fortune, while I was still a student at college, to have possessed a copy of an English translation of his great work on The Sensations of Tone. As is well known, this was one of Helmholtz’s masterpieces. It treats the subject of music and musical instruments not only with profound knowledge and insight, but also with extreme clarity of language and expression. I discovered this book for myself and read it with the keenest interest and attention. It can be said without exaggeration that it profoundly influenced my intellectual outlook. For the first time, I understood from its perusal what scientific research really meant and how it could be carried on. I also gathered from it a variety of problems for research which were later to occupy my attention and keep me busy for many years……..

Courtesy: “Indo English Prose: A Selection” edited by C.Subbian
Published by Emerald Publishers, Chennai-600029

Memorable Quotes-17

Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind - James Russell Lowell

Monday, March 3, 2008

Book Review-7: SRIMAD BHAGAVATA - An Introduction by Shri R.Ravi Shankar

SRIMAD BHAGAVATA - An Introduction
By Swami Tapasyananda
Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai

Once again, Sri Ramakrishna Math has brought out a little, handy book titled, “Srimad Bhagavata – An Introduction” by Swami Tapasyananda. The Bhagavata is the most celebrated of our Puranas (“narratives of ancient times”), consisting more than 18,000 verses and also occupies a central place for all the followers of bhakti movement. The book consists of 8 chapters. It begins with the Origin of the Puranas, followed by Their Principal Features and Contents. The subsequent chapters described the Date of Bhagavata, Sri Krishna and the Bhagavata, the Bhagavan in the Bhagavata, Philosophical outlook, the Problems of Modern Readers arising from the Pauranika outlook and the Supra-historical Validity of the Puranas.

The book highlights the efficacy of Bhakti movement and love. The language of the book is lucid and simple, yet powerful and effective. It contains 114 pages and is priced at a nominal rate of Rs.20/-. The book is mainly descriptive without illustrations.

All in all, the book is certainly a valuable addition to the Hindu lore. This will be a useful book for one who wants to get initiated in our Puranic literature.

Courtesy: ‘Yuva Bharati’, March 2008