Despite the pandemic, Guwahati Granthamela emerges as the biggest crowd-puller  

By The Samikhsya North-East Bureau Chief

GUWAHATI: Despite Covid-19 pandemic inducing national lockdown, the process of publication and marketing of Assamese books have re-emerged with new approaches to the technology driven profession for the interest of valued readers around the world.

The pandemic had severely affected the publication industry but at the same time it has indirectly helped in increasing the number of readers precisely among the new generation.

An intriguing session at the ongoing 33rd Guwahati Granthamela (Guwahati Book Fair) here at Assam Engineering Institute campus observed many issues related to the physical publication of books and newspapers along with the positive note that more people have regained the habit of reading and many young people lately joined the list of committed readers irrespective of the paper-printed books or digital outlets.

Inaugurating the session dedicated to the theme of crisis and possibilities of book publication in post-corona era, senior publisher Nabin Barua described the hardship faced by the publication houses across Assam soon after the corona-pandemic hit the country early last year. He however opined that the disaster helped everyone to redefine life in a tricky and isolated ambience.

Chaired by author-journalist Nava Thakuria, the session was also addressed by publishers Pritima Kaushik Barua, Manish Hazarika, Dhiraj Lahkar, Amrit Upadhaya, Farhan Javed and Buljit Buragohain along with award winning Assamese author Bipul Deuri.

They were unanimous in their views that the new technology of publication, promotion and marketing has brought a better deal for quality publishers.

Literary magazine editor Mihir Deuri, journalist Dixit Sarma, writers Geetali Borah, Nabajyoti Pathak, Rupam Dutta, Jintu Thakuria, Nripen Dutta also participated in the discussion and raised concerns over the decreasing number of readers in various regional languages.

They opined their expectations to promote Assamese as an internet-savvy language reaching out to millions of readers around the world.

Meanwhile, thousands of book lovers continue to throng the fair daily since the 12-day event was inaugurated on 30 December.

Organized by the State-run Publication Board of Assam, the Granthamela has emerged as an important public function in the city’s annual cultural calendar.

The fair was inaugurated this year by Chief Minister’s media adviser Hrishikesh Goswami in presence of noted intellectual Tathagata Roy, renowned litterateur Yeshe Dorjee Thongshi among others.

Asom Prakasan Parisad continued its activities facing various challenges during the novel corona virus induced shut down. We have reprinted 41 important books and published 31 new ones. The readers have shown significant appreciations to our efforts,” said Pramod Kalita, Secretary of the Publication Board that launched the book fair movement in early 80’s in collaboration with National Book Trust of India.

Goswami, who represented the Assam CM, conferred Asom Prakasan Parisad Lifetime Achievement Award for 2019 on eminent Assamese scholar Dr. Thaneswar Sarma. The award carries a citation and a cash award of Rs.two lakh.

Roy, the former Governor of Tripura, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, described Assamese as a sweet language and expressed hope that the bonhomie between Assamese and Bengali   people   would   continue in future too.

A resident of West Bengal but familiar with the Assamese society, the outspoken author observed   that   the   National Education Policy 2020 should immensely help in highlighting the regional languages and their literature.

Sahitya Academy awardee Thongshi, who is a resident of neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh and very popular in Assamese literary circle, described various challenges surfaced due to the corona-pandemic.

He derived a positive note out of the pandemic with the increase of quality readers across the world. Thongshi expressed happiness that a collection of literary pieces penned by another Arunachali litterateur Lumber Dai was also released in the function.

A stall dedicated to Bangladesh literature and another showcasing the Tibetan culture added special attraction to the fair.