Delhi Book Fair was a week long affair and I went for it on the very last day, which happened to be a Sunday. A hectic morning, less than pleasant weather, and no company at all motivated me to head back home. Obviously, given the circumstances it was a wise thing to do, but someone managed to change my mind. I was surprised by my decision because only a handful of people have the privilege to do so.

I went to the fair not once, but twice in a span of three hours. First time round I was by myself and it wasn’t the best of days for solitude. As soon as I encountered the sea of people – which was expected – I almost ran towards the exit. Later, I lamented about how I hated crowded places to which I was reminded that India is a crowded country. How will I ever escape it? All I could do was roll my eyes.

I was quite disappointed because Harper Collins, Penguin, Rupa, and my childhood favourite CBT were clearly missing from the fair but they have been doing so for a while now. I thought it to be a crime because such stalwarts should have been leading the show. Hachette India was there but they refused to sell the books to me unless I bought a copy of every book on the shelves. What kind of ridiculous marketing strategy was it?

For the first time in my life I returned empty handed from a book fair. Not literally because I did buy two books – one was to indulge every romantic bone in my body and the second was a gift for the man who shares my love for reading. His taste in books is far more eclectic than mine but the weathered old pages and the smell that is unique to books is what had us bonding in the first place.

My books are my babies and I absolutely cannot bear to be separated from them. So, choosing a book is a serious business for me. Unless I have caressed the cover to the point of satisfaction, run my fingers across every word flowing through the pages, felt their warmth seeping through my soul, till then I just cannot settle for any book at all. Come to think of it then how could I ever pick a dozen books without really knowing them?

Simply said I like to linger over books even though I might not make them mine.

Second time too I needed convincing but I gave in because it would have been a sin to miss a conversation with and company of a man with a fabulous taste in all things lyrical.

We searched high and low for a good book, stopped at every stall, and in that mad rush he managed to find couple of masterpieces. He doesn’t restrict himself to specific genres or a language. I say so because he reads Premchand  with as much interest as he would read Rumi.  The only difference is that in three months he has read 80 odd pages of Premchand while Rumi would stay with him forever.

I coerced him into buying Past and Continous by Neel Mukherjee – something I haven’t read myself. Hopefully, he loves it else I will never hear the end of it.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t sad about not bringing back at least ten books with me.  However, I am sure he must have already judged my choice in books after seeing my childlike enthusiasm for the dog-eared copy of Nora Roberts in my hands. I shudder to think of his reaction only if he had caught me red-handed with a JudithMcNaught. He surely would have disowned me!  Now, I really can’t afford to let that happen but the hopeless romantic in me cannot not sigh and dream once in a while.

So, even though the fair didn’t leave a lasting impression on me but my company for the day was worth the time spent. But, I hope the Nelson Mandela autobiography I got for him doesn’t land too hard on my head. After all it would be a hardcover in his hands and the person standing closest to him would be me.



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