Wednesday, 14 December 2016

'Lettering thoughts, Colouring imaginations'

The Kochi International Book Festival is at its 20th edition. The first edition was inaugurated by Justice V. R Krishna IIyer in 1997. With participation from writers, publishers, dealers and voracious readers from all over Kerala the book festival marks a significant position in the literature timeline of the state. The Kochi International Book Festival, (KIBF) is organized by the Antharashtra Pusthakotsava Samithy, Kochi (APS), a registered charitable society, established with a vision to promote reading and encourage writing by providing high quality literary activities, accessible to all. Relying mostly on volunteer efforts, APS has been able to silence the constant laments on the 'demise of reading' and has been able to inspire thousands of readers and young writers, through it's various activities. KIBF held annually is probably the only book fair in the world, organized by a voluntary organization. Says the team behind the scenes.

From 2007 onwards APS is organizing  annual Children's Book Festival. In a two month long festival, children are encouraged to display their home collection of books. One of the prestigious literary awards in Kerala –the Balamani Amma Award for lifetime achievement in language and literature has been instituted by APS. For the first time in Kerala, an award for the Best Publisher was also initiated by APS. Other awards are  for media personnel, both print and visual, Reader Prize for students. Every year a large group of selected literary enthusiasts call on eminent  writers, cultural leaders and have discussions; visit memorials, and organizations of importance to readers, pay tributes to the great masters, in a week long programme, in various parts of the state.

Guru Chemancheri Kunjiraman Nair inaugurated the book fest. Poet S. Rameshan Nair received the Balamani Amma Award from Dr. Satya Vrat Shasthri. Former R. S. S national leader R. Hari visited the book festival. Book Fest auditorium at Ernakulathappan Grounds, BTH Bharath Hotel, Ernakulam and St. Teresa’s College were the three venues of KIBF 2016. Book publishing was conducted at BTH Bharath Hotel and Author interactions and conversations were hosted at St. Teresa’s College. The stalls of different cultural and religious organizations grew in number compared to previous years. Prominent newspaper agencies also opened stalls, but less in number. POS swiping machine to tackle the currency crunch was a common scene in every stall. Demonetization made a negative impact on the fest. Book sales and stall bookings declined considerably.

The book festival had and impact of the present social tends too. The increase in number of religious stalls and the decrease in the number of new secular publishers was easily noticeable. Another missing  in the book festival was the  absence of foreign publishers. But there were many translated books available in stalls. The Paragon publishers had something interesting to showcase  in front of the book fest audience which included collection of history notes related to various top brands, prominent discoveries  compiled by National Geographic, Fox history and  Discovery channels etc.  Khadi products which are hand carved literature of Indian  villages had a wide range of finished goods in their stalls.  Wholesale book dealers  engaged in  seeking new business opportunities was a common sight. The possibilities and potentials of such a great venture seemed to be well explored by innovative people.
Mr. Haridas Secretary of the book festival  a down to earth man, managed to talk to us amidst of his busy schedule. According to him , compared to previous years the audience response was not up to the mark and the book  fest team will evaluate the decline in audience response. He is a high profiled corporate man volunteering for the  betterment of literature in our society. Many such people offer silent service to conduct and coordinate the book festival annually. This shows the  initiatives from society to safeguard values through literature. There was active participation of youth both as guests and as hosts. APS has its office at Kaloor towers near Kaloor, Kochi which is always open for discussions  for literary outreach initiatives. Panel discussions and cultural events were also arranged in the fest. The Kochi International Book Festival of 2016 came to an end with the closing ceremony on 11th Sunday evening 4:30pm. ‘As the number of programs increased organizers became busy and their friends too. The sweetens and warmth of gatherings once we had miss these days. But happy to see the growth of KIBF'. Says Sri. T Sateeshan in his book fest memories.