Bangalore Book Festival

So today I made my way to Gayatri Vihar in the Palace Grounds to visit the Bangalore Book Festival, on its last day. It was interesting, though a bit crowded (what would you expect on the last day of an exhibition? and that too, when it’s a Sunday?). I didn’t buy much (just picked up two books) given the massive unread pile that lies at home. However, there was much scope for pertinent observations. Like I always do when I have a large number of unrelated pertinent observations, I’ll write this in bullet point form.

  • There were some 200 stalls. Actually, there might have been more. I didn’t keep count, despite the stalls having been numbered. Yeah, you can say that I wasn’t very observant.
  • All the major bookshops in Bangalore barring the multicity ones had set up shop there. I don’t really know what they were doing there. Or were they just trying to capture the market that only buys in fairs? Or did they set up stall there just to advertise themselves?
  • It seems like a lot of shops were trying to use the fair to get rid of inventory they wanted to discard. All they had to do was to stack all of this on one table and put a common price tag (say Rs. 50) on every book in that collection, and it was enough to draw insane crowds
  • One interesting stall at the fair had been set up by an online self-publishing company. I’ll probably check them out sometime next year when I might want to publish a blook. Seems like an interesting business model they’ve got. Print on demand!
  • I also met the guys at the fair. Once again, they were there for advertising themselves. Need to check them out sometime. Given the kind of books I buy, I think online is the best place to get long tail stuff.
  • There was an incredibly large number of islamic publishing houses at the fair! And have you guys seen the “want qur an? call 98xxxxxxxx for free copy” hoardings all over the city? Wonder why the Bajrang Dal doesn’t target those
  • There was large vernacular presence at the fair. I remember reading in the papers that there was a quota for Kannada publishers, but there was reasonable presence for other languages also, like Gult, Tam, Mellu, Hindi
  • A large number of stalls were ideology driven. Publishing houses attached to cults had set up stalls, probably to further the cause of their own cult. So there was an ISKCON stall, a Ramakrishna Mutt stall, a Ramana Maharshi stall, etc.
  • Attendance at most of these niche stalls was quite thin, as people mostly crowded the stalls being run by bookstores in order to hunt for bargains. Attendance was also mostly thin at publisher-run stalls, making me wonder why most of these people had bothered to come to the fair at all.
  • I saw one awesomely funny banner at the place. It was by “Dr Partha Bagchi, the world leader in stammering for last 20 years” or some such thing. Was too lazy to pull out my phone and click pic. But it was a masterpiece of a banner
  • Another interesting ideological publisher there was “Leftword books”. Their two sales reps were in kurtas and carrying jholas (ok I made the latter part up). And they were sellling all sorts of left-wing books. Wonder who funds them! And they were also selling posters of Che for 10 bucks each
  • I wonder what impact this fair will have on bookstores in Bangalore in the next few days. Or probably it was mostly the non-regular book buyers who did business at the fair and so the regulars will be back at their favourite shops tomorrow.

I bought two books. Vedam Jaishankar’s Casting A Spell: A history of Karnataka cricket (I got it at Rs. 200, as opposed to a list price of Rs 500) and Ravi Vasudevan’s “Making Meaning in Indian Cinema”.

When I got Varmalanched

So one of India’s 50 most powerful people has released his book My Friend Sancho. People who have already read it tell me that it is a great book. I’ve read bits of the first chapter which he had put up online a few months back, and despite the fact that I dont’ normally read fiction, this had me fairly interested. However, my unread pile at home is still quite tall, so I don’t plan to buy this for a while at least. And the Delhi launch of the book is on a weekday, so I can’t attend that either.

So a while back I was going through Aadisht’s archives. I was looking for one specific post which he had written sometime in our 5th term at IIMB, and I managed to find all other posts he had written at that time, except the one I was looking for. And one of those posts had a linked to one of my posts, which was the only time when my blog got Varmalanched.

Instapundit is a famous blog aggregator and legend has it that whenever instapundit links to a blog, it goes down due to the sudden spike in trafffic. This is called an instalanche. Similarly when desipundit was good (in its early days), a link from there would lead to a small disaster (especially for people working with limited hosting space and bandwidth) which gave rise to desilanche. So when India’s most powerful blogger links you, you get Varmalanched.

The occasion was a post that I had written in search of lost love. I had seen a fairly cute girl at the Bangalore Landmark Quiz 2005, and had blogged asking for her whereabouts. First Aadisht linked me. Then I got desilanched (there were a few desipundit regulars who would read my blog back then). And then the ultimate thing happened. Varmalanche.It was like all the interwebs were trying to help me out in my search for love. If it had succeeded, it would’ve been truly filmi.

I was hosted on Liverjournal back then so my site didn’t actually go down. But this was the first time that a post that I had written had gotten more than 50 comments. I have linked to the livejournal post here (rather than the page) so that you can read the comments. Do read the comments, they are extremely insightful and funny (ok now I seem to be pitching that blog post like Ravi Shastri pitches that 2020 magazine).

Commenting on that post, Gaurav Sabnis had advised me to shift to Pune saying that that was the only way I could improve my social skills. I interpreted his advice differently. A month later, I was hitting on a girl who was then living in Pune. That story had ended in disaster, though. A year back I met up with Salil the Younger for the first time and teamed up with him for a couple of quizzes. The first thing he mentioned to me was this particular post of mine and his comment on it. It is in the same thread as Gaurav’s comment.

Then there was Shamanth who was trying to convince all my readers that I would never get the girl because he had already bagged her (by giving her chocolate during the quiz). Do read his comments on the post, and the replies to them. Insightful again. And there was Gayathri, a girl who was then unknown to me who had taken to commenting on each of my blog posts. Her comments, and her conversations with Shamanth, are also insightful.

I have attended two landmark Bangalore quizzes after that. On each occasion, I’ve looked through the entire crowd trying to find this girl, without much success. On several occasions I’ve tried to describe this girl to fellow-quizzers and asked me to help me identify her. No luck there either. I’ve had a long history of stillborn relationships – things that were over before they could take off. I suppose I should accept the hard facts and add this one also to that already long list.