Sharjah: A star-studded author line-up, including former president A P J Abdul Kalam, Ruskin Bond, Kamal Haasan and Ravinder Singh, best-sellers, higher publisher participation and a wide variety of books in diverse languages on sale drew massive crowds to the Indian Pavilion at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), making it a runaway hit.
“We think at least 300,000 to 400,00 Indians were coming in...the largest number of people from any country actually. The maximum number of events were also from India,” said Ravi DeeCee, CEO of DC Books that coordinated the entire Indian pavilion, bringing in publishers and big names from the Indian literary world. The number of titles and publishers from India in fact increased by 50 percent compared to the past year.
“We have about 65 publishers from India...The sales have been tremendous...it’s (Indian stalls) been jam-packed on the weekends,” Ravi said on the concluding day of the fair on Saturday.
While the evenings saw whole families throng the stalls and meet-the-author sessions, the mornings brought in busloads of school children. And it’s this massive Indian crowd that spurred author Ravinder Singh to tweet that the Sharjah Book Fair reminded him of the one in Delhi.
There are 1.75 million Indians in the UAE. Apart from DC Books being the main coordinator, a major force behind the various Indian publishing houses that came here was the government-funded National Book Trust of India (NBT), which has been associated with the book fair for 10 years.
“The relationship is on a reciprocal basis. We are given hospitality and one free stall when we come to Sharjah and vice versa when SIBF visits the Delhi World Book Fair. We brought with us 25 Indian publishers this year. We gave subsidy of 50 percent to Indian publishers...so they pay only half the price of a stall here...We’ve spent approximately `900,00 to one million bringing the publishers,” Kumar Samresh, assistant director for PR and promotion with NBT, said.
The NBT also organised a session where actress-turned author Deepti Naval was in conversation with her longtime co-star Farooq Sheikh, drawing a big crowd of their fans.
They also held negotiations to bring more Arab publishers to the New Delhi World Book Fair that takes place in February 2014. And what saw maximum demand were Indian children’s books like Amar Chitra Katha, school books and biographies of Indian leaders.
Books by Abdul Kalam, Ruskin Bond and Ravinder Singh flew off the shelves as readers snapped them up to get their own autographed copies then and there. Talking about Indian book sales, Samresh said: “According to SIBF figures, there has been an increase of 50 percent from last year for Indian publishers whereas publishers from other countries saw an increase of seven percent.”
“There was demand for Urdu books of NBT and Sahitya Akademi...Going by the huge response, we are looking at bringing more NBT books for sale next time,” Samresh added.
But with a huge Malayali population in the UAE, Malayalam literature sure sold like hot cakes.
Mohan Kumar, external affairs executive of SIBF, said relations with Indian publishers was a deep one because of the “fact that most of the people who live in this part of the world are from India..and out of that, the majority is from Kerala.”
“And the response is incredibly high...we understood that the second biggest publishing industry is in India after the UK and among Indians, Malayalis top the list in reading. During the weekends, one could just not enter the Indian book stalls.”
The 32nd SIBF broke all previous records with an unprecedented attendance of over 885,000 book lovers, said a SIBF statement.
The 11-day event, which ended on Saturday, was themed ‘For Love of the Written Word’ to symbolise Sharjah’s commitment to enhancing literacy and promoting culture, and drew some 1,010 publishers from across the world.