Monday, February 16, 2009
"Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting."
-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
I was humbled to recently attend Asia's largest book fair, a most significant element of Calcutta's past and present. The Calcutta Book Fair, when Spouse and I arrived on the scene, was seething with avaricious readers on the hunt for a rare paperback, a comic from their distant childhood or the latest bestseller.
It was a chaotic, complex gathering, worthy of the vast space it occupied, and a genuine haven both of literature and of food: the familiar scent of crisp paper wafted from one direction while the aroma of the latter threatened to veer me off the path of words and into a world of perpetual eating.
"Let's begin with the books," I said to Spouse, but I said it with an uncertain quiver in my voice because I also longed to examine the edible sustenance as soon as possible.
I would have been content to remain at that tantalising juncture for any number of weeks, or at least until the much-anticipated festival drew to a close.
Over our indecisive heads a loudspeaker was dispensing thundering information about the event but offered no sage advice on whether the books or the food ought to be delved into first.
"Please be careful when lighting cigarettes," the speaker suggested in an emphatic, sincere voice that cemented the gravity of the warning, "because one small spark can usher in terrible danger."
There and then, wedged awkwardly between thousands of people, thoroughly absorbing the adventuresome scene I found myself in- a moment which was bordering on the surreal- I knew I was in a place like no other.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 10:07 AM