December 2, 2020, 5:18 am

FT Online

2020-01-16 16:14:18 BdST

Amar Ekushey Book Fair 2020: Hosting a liability or a sacred ritual?

The Amar Ekushey Book Fair, one of the biggest and most popular festivities in Bangladesh ever since its humble inception in 1972, is at good hands, Bangla Academy, according to one of its key directors.

"There’s no disparity in resource allocation among research and publication-based activities and fair hosting. I think the overall responsibility of hosting the fair should rest in the hands of Bangla Academy," Dr Jalal Ahmed, Bangla Academy’s Director of Sales, Marketing and Reprinting Division and Member Secretary of Amar Ekushey Book Fair organising committee told UNB.

Talking about preparation of the fair, Dr Jalal also brought up justifiable causes to validate his claim.

"Bangla Academy has been hosting the Amar Ekushey Book Fair seamlessly year after year since the very beginning. We consider this event as a sacred event for us. The experience this organisation has in hosting this national event can't be ignored," he said.

He went on to say, "It’s not like that Bangla Academy alone arranges the fair. Other stakeholders are there involved."

Regarding its own preparation as a participant, Dr Jalal Ahmed informed UNB that the Academy will publish some 200 new books in this year’s fair, mostly research-based publications and non-fictions.

"Some creative publications will be brought by Bangla Academy. A total of Bangla Academy books published this year will surpass the previous year," he said.

Asked whether the Academy feels arranging the fair can create any sort of disturbance Dr Jalal denied the claim. "Arranging the fair in no way affects the academy's other sectors such as research and publications," he told UNB.

He mentioned that the matter is distributed carefully among divisions.

"A separate division of the organisation (Bangla Academy) works year-long on hosting the fair. But all the other departments of the academy go on doing their separate tasks being uninvolved in arranging the fair," he said.

Metro Rail project has become a concerning issue in the city for narrowing down the street’s width because of the construction works, and the Academy is facing the hazard. It seemed unpleasant to the audiences who attended the Dhaka Lit Fest this year, but the Academy is assuring that the project will not cause much havoc to the attendees of the Ekushey Book Fair in 2020.

"We’ve been in talks with metro rail authority multiple times. By the time the fair starts, they’ll remove the obstructions to the fair premises," Dr Jalal Ahmed said.

Besides, he said, the fair will expand more in Suhrawardy Udyan this year, increasing the festival premises significantly and the stall number supposedly will go up.

However, the exact number of stalls could not be confirmed by the authorities as the stalls are yet to be set up as it will be finalised later.

Regarding the security arrangement, Dr Jalal informed that the Academy has spoken with law enforcement agencies and they have assured of taking adequate security measures to prevent any unwanted circumstances.

"The fair is already a nationally celebrated festival of literature. Regarding the key challenges of hosting the Amar Ekushey Book Fair, we think about certain aspects such as improving the standard further of overall arrangements, raising it on an international level and keeping it more reader-friendly, so we need tight security and law enforcement agencies have ensured us about that."

Bangla Academy is the nation’s autonomous institution to foster, nurture and promote the Bengali language, literature, and culture, which took charge of the event in 1978 and has since been hosting the event.

Altogether, 4,685 books have been published during 2019 fair, while the publishers sold books worth around Tk 78 crore – nearly Tk 7.5 crore higher than the previous year. Bangla Academy also had a brisk sale of Tk 2.15 crore. As far as the venue is concerned, the fairground has been extended to 550,000 square feet.

Dr Jalal confirmed that these numbers will go up in 2020, the birth centenary year of the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman- as it reaches greater heights.

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