New Delhi World Book Fair: A Multicultural Haven For Readers

International Events corner and regional languages stalls created a diverse array of literature at the fair


Sara Siddiqui

Books and literature have been around for centuries and have been used for the welfare of the masses and for bringing communities together. The spirit of reading and the essence of literature was visible at the New Delhi World Book Fair 2023 as it brought people together from various walks of life. The international platform is great at encouraging reading and promoting regional and international literature on a large scale. 

The highly anticipated New Delhi World Book Fair was organised from 25th February to 5th March 2023 at Pragati Maidan. A must-visit for book lovers, the fair saw readers, visitors, and tourists from all age groups. Children running for the activity area, teenagers hounding fiction aisles and the parents eyeing them both, the book fair was a sight for sore eyes. Back after a gap of three years due to the pandemic, the National Book Trust (NBT) under the Ministry of Education, Government of India in collaboration with the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) set up the international convention with much zeal.

The International Events Corner, in particular, was a multilingual sanctum. With stalls, booths, and presentations by various countries, it really brought people together through literature. The country of honour this year was France. The French booth hosted the highlight of the week-long convention with the speaker, French author and winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature, Annie Ernaux delivering a talk. The French corner portrayed a piece of its culture with a signature coffee and croissant cart open for visitors. Most people visiting the stall were those interested in embracing the culture. It offered informative pamphlets for people looking to learn the language or study in France. 

The beautiful decoration of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia booth made one feel transported to the country rich in culture and heritage. The in charge of the booth, Mohd. Umair said that the translations of the Holy Qur’an in 39 different languages were a crowd favourite as a lot of people were interested in learning about the holy scripture. The aim of the KSA display was to increase and encourage tourism in the country, he added. The booth had books about Islam, medicine, and engineering sciences among others. A small part of that culture was shared with the visitors in the form of delicious dates. A calligrapher was present during the first few days of the fair which became a major tourist attraction.

Russia attracted the crowd with its author and poet talks that were interpreted in English for ease of understanding. Russian literature translated into several Indian regional languages was also very popular. Visitors reminisced about the 80s and 90s when Russian literature was common in Indian markets and encouraged their children to get a taste of the variety available. 

Multiple Indian and regional languages were given space at the book fair, including Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, Assamese, Punjabi, and Malayalam among others. Many of these languages were widely spoken across various parts of the country and have seen a steady decline in their usage. One such language is Urdu; a language that was used alongside Hindi but now suffers active negligence. However, there were around 10 stalls at the book fair and they attracted a good number of visitors. While discussing the inflow of the crowd that these stalls attracted, Zakir Hussain at the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language stall mentioned that the populace varied in terms of age and religion, showing that people across cultures and cohorts still have an interest in learning Urdu. The stall had books about learning the language, help books in Hindi and English, as well as fiction and non-fiction books. The book fair also hosted a mushaira on the 5th of March which furthered the promotion of the language.

The multicultural energy of the world book fair was unmatched and provided exposure to a variety of languages, cultures, and people from around the world. Sharing experiences, having conversations, and learning from all sides, is what one anticipates at a cultural platform so grand.

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