Dressed in a black and white panjabi, I was excited to go to the Ekushey Boi Mela for the first time. I was prepared for the hustle and bustle that I was told would ensue, even a distance away from the venue. It was surprising to see however, that the streets were not too busy. The road leading to Bangla Academy was blocked off, and only a few groups of people were walking in. Making a mental note to return during the weekend, I walked into the venue.
The gates had just been opened around 3 pm in the afternoon and people were only beginning to crowd the place. It was like being in a gigantic outdoor library. The smell of fresh new pages wafted through the air. The stage near the entrance to Bangla Academy, then empty, is where puppet shows and other performances would be held during the weekends. A smaller stage and a sitting area for the audience was designated for interactive sessions with guest speakers. Most people were crowding around the stalls, flipping through the pages, looking for books to buy. I browsed through the stalls, looking through their collections. Many books were written by first-time young authors. I was looking to buy some English novels written by our local authors but unfortunately, there were not many of those. There were however, some Bangla translations of popular novels by internationally acclaimed writers such as Haruki Murakami and others.
Next, I slowly made my way to Suhrawardy Udyan. I found stalls owned by a plethora of different publication houses there, including Shomoy Prokashon, the publisher of many new authors each year, Anyaprokash, the publisher of several Humayun Ahmed and Muhammad Zafar Iqbal novels, Academic Press and Publishers Library and Borshadupur Books among several others. Some stalls were creatively decorated- one was fashioned into a small hut made of hay, another selling children's books had cartoons painted all over. Many were ornamented with fairy lights of different colours. A small area with Sisimpur cartoons drawn on the fences was enclosed around a tree where children ran around and played.
As the sunset turned into just a splash of orange and pink across the horizon, visitors sat on the benches around the Shadhinota Stambha, admiring its spectacular hues. Once the winter evening began to set in, people wrapped their shawls around themselves, putting on their jackets and sweaters or just huddling a little closer to each other. The lights were turned on and the fountains came to life. The sounds of excited children filled the air as people brought out their cameras, capturing the beautiful moments. I would have taken a picture myself, but I don't think a digitally captured image could do justice to it all.