“To write one line, you first need to read a hundred,” an elderly man (an author in all probability) from the middle of the crowd, said. The importance of reading is arguably only secondary to the joy it provides, and that is one of the reasons why Ekushey Boi Mela remains so full of activity.
Like every year, the book fair is at full swing for the whole month of February, commemorating the Language Movement of 1952 and the martyrs who died for their mother tongue.
Unlike every year however, this time the book fair is taking place in a section of Suhrawardy Udyan -- in addition to the premises of Bangla Academy, which has been the singular host since the early years of the fair.
“There has been an increasing demand for more space to accommodate all the publishing houses and the events and activities,” informed Murshid Anwar, Deputy Director (Public Relations), Bangla Academy. And this initiative has been welcomed by all, from the readers to the publishers.
“The premises of Bangla Academy will always remain special. With the beautiful banyan trees and the whole atmosphere and the loads of memories I have accumulated over the years -- coming here as a child with my family or with friends during my university life -- Bangla Academy will always be my favourite venue for the fair,” said Asgar Ali, a private university lecturer. “However, having an extension is always welcomed; the bigger the fair, the better. It's a positive sign; and a good initiative.”
While having a second venue for Ekushey Boi Mela is seen in positive light by everyone, the significance of Bangla Academy should also be kept in mind. “The book fair has its roots in the premises of Bangla Academy. Also, the venue has been developed in such a way that it reminds visitors of the Language Movement,” Anwar said.
Meanwhile, food stalls and vendors have occupied a large portion of the areas surrounding the venues, making it very difficult for people to walk or commute.
But a little inconvenience surely does not stand in the way of visiting the book fair, and the large crowds inside the venues confirm that. There are lots of reasons why we flock to Ekushey Boi Mela -- to show respect to our language and its martyrs, to hang out with friends, to buy newly launched books, to meet our favourite writers and indulge in the overall experience.
For me, it's about reading those hundred lines before I can write one on my own.