The book fair is here! As I am a self-confessed bookworm and amateurish bibliophile, this is a very exciting week for me as well as other starry-eyed readers who will get to hear their favourite authors read and perhaps, in that awkward song-and-dance that happens when one meets one's idol, exchange a few words at a book signing. I know because I am a geek like that.
Thrills related to books came early in life. As the only child of two doctors who were always being called away on emergencies, I was taught to read early. It was, as my mother theorised, an easy way to keep me occupied in the doctor's prep room while I waited for her to finish up in the operating theatre. She did not believe in nannies. So I'd sit there with my collection of Enid Blyton or the Tintin series, rocking my crossed legs back and forth, and read. Once, after I'd exhausted whatever I had brought with me, I read a coffee can label - and proceeded to surprise the doctors who came by to make coffee by telling them how it's really done. I was precocious, certainly. Wellread? I was definitely on my way.
After I went away to university in Canada, I would filch from my mother's library during my visits home. I had grown up with a certain number of Indian, Russian and Bengali classics but by then I was knee-deep in South Asian contemporary literature. Among many others, I stole her copy of Bapsi Sidhwa's An American Brat. When my mother visited my flat in Toronto, I couldn't tell if she was proud or relieved to find her missing collection. (Sidhwa is one of the authors who is taking part in the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.)
Later in life, as a journalist, one of my first foreign assignments was to travel to Kolkata (Calcutta at that time) to cover the book fair there. It was a harried experience. The place was full of communist writers who did not take kindly to an Indo-Canadian journalist asking them about the relevance of their work. I received a scolding from Mahasweta Devi. It was an honour.