The Amar Ekushey Granthamela is an open invitation to all. It is an event unlike any other where people of all ages spend the day with their loved ones amid festivity.
And, like previous years, Bangla Academy in collaboration with other organisations is offering various services to facilitate and enhance visitor experience at the book fair.
One such is Switch Bangladesh Foundation. The voluntary organisation offers wheelchair facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities. SBF has been providing the service at the book fair since 2016.
“We offer the service free of cost,” said Mostafizur Rahman, chief coordinator of the organisation. “We also remain with the person who is availing our service to make his or her experience at the book fair pleasing.”
He said every day around eight to ten of their volunteers work at the book fair. “On holidays or weekends, we add more volunteers.”
The Bangla Academy and Child Sight Foundation are supporting SBF in this regard.
Visually-impaired Ripa Tabassum visits the book fair almost every day. She avails the SBF service every time she is at the fair.
“A volunteer takes me to Sporsho Braille Prokashona on a wheelchair. It's a great help for someone like me,” said the student of Eden Mohila College.
There are other facilities at the fair too.
At the north-west corner of the book fair, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) has set up a stall for making people aware of donating blood.
A visitor can also test her or his blood group there free of cost. Besides, they also provide other medical facilities for free, according to Subrata Biswas, a counsellor of Transfusion Medicine Department at BSMMU.
“I just got my blood group tested,” said a Dhaka City Collage student, Srishty. “It's a good initiative. It will also encourage people to donate blood.”
Meanwhile, Police Blood Bank has set up a stall at Suhrawardy Udyan. Other than donating blood, visitors can also conduct tests including HIV and Hepatitis (B, C) there free of cost.
Despite many such services, toilet facilities still remain a concern for many visitors. Visitors and publishers alike expressed dissatisfaction over the cleanliness and their management.
“After 5:00pm, there is a water crisis there,” said publisher Shikha Sarkar of Saptaborno.
Shaifiqul Haque, a government employee, said, “I expected the toilets to be cleaner…” He said it gets hard to stay in a place for such a long time without proper bathroom facilities, especially for children and elderly.
Meanwhile, to facilitate the visitors, Bangla Academy has launched a website, “ba21bookfair.com”, where any information related to the book fair could be found. The academy also has information booths on Bangla Academy and Suhrawardy Udyan premises.
On the other hand, security is always one of the major concerns for the visitors. They, however, expressed satisfaction over the issue.
Law enforcers are not only providing security round the clock, they have also set up control rooms on the fair grounds.
There is also a “lost and found” section at the Police Control Room.
“Visitors are always welcome to seek our assistance,” said Sub-inspector Mosarraf Hossain of Police Control Room at Suhrawardy Udyan. “We are also providing safe drinking water… The table has been set up next to the control room.”
Other than security, paying for books has become much easier for visitors this year through mobile payment service, said some of the visitors. Also, many publishers have e-book and book delivery services.
There are also benches at the fair venues for visitors to catch a breath and engage in literary “addas” with their friends.
Yesterday, being a weekend, the Ekushey book fair saw a huge rush of visitors. A total of 182 new books hit the fair. People were seen thronging the stalls to buy their favourites.
A poetry collection titled, “Ek Bishanna Robbare”, by Shahida Sultana is available at Shila Prokashani. The writer is a government official. Her first poetry book, “Kalabati Ful”, was published in 2013.
Besides, “Seito Fire Elo”, written by Sharmi Bhowmik can be found at Banglar Prokashon. This is the author's first novel. The book depicts the struggle of a woman through various stages of her life.
DAILY STAR BOOKS
“Malicious Gossip” by Khushwant Singh, “Kartography” by Kamila Shamsie, “Srestha Rahassa Uponnas” by Rakib Hasan, “Kishor Muktijoddha” by Mostafa Hossain, “40 years of Bangladesh Way Forward” (collection of supplements) and “Abul Mansur Ahmad er Srestha Golpo” edited by Dr Nurul Amin continue to draw readers' attention.
“I have bought Star Toons from the stall. It's a compilation of cartoons printed at The Daily Star…” said Diana Shahrin, a student of Military Institute of Science and Technology. She visited the stall along with her parents.
Syed Abul Maksud's “Bangalee Musolmaner Buddhibrittik Bibhrom o Bishwashinota” will be available at the stall soon.