Looking Back at 2018 – January: Esha Chatterjee Writes

January is perhaps one of the busiest months in our calendar with the book fair round the corner and literature festivals lined up. 2018 was no exception, and the preparations for both the events were in full swing. In-between this demanding schedule, I went back to my roots in Bangladesh with my father on 12th of January for  a four-day day trip. We were in Dhaka for the Nikhil Banga Bangla Utsav.  I met few publishers from Bangladesh and was amazed by the vast range of Bengali literature that the country offers. We were in awe of the bookstore, Baatighar, with the scale and volume of Bengali books being sold.

Work aside, I also went to Maowa Ghat on the banks of Padma—a one-of-a-kind experience—where I saw lines of roadside restaurant serving the delicious hilsa. Being an ardent lover, I wondered if I have reached my personal gastronomical heaven.

Once back in India, I left for Jaipur Book Mark in Jaipur Literature Festival on the 24th. This was my 4th year visiting the JLF and Jaipur Book Mark or JBM, as it is more popularly known. As many would know, JBM is the business counterpart of the JLF where publishers, agents, translators and authors across the world come in to talk about the business, the future and all other aspects of our industry. This year too I was a part of enriching panels and discussions, where I shared my view on both regional and English language publishing.

We, the publishers in Bengal, have an internal joke, that 31st December is never our new year. New year only comes in after our Kolkata Book Fair is over. That is when stress is replaced by peace and celebration. December comes in with the fear of upcoming January which is so chaotic, that over 36 years, my father has still not figured the best way to not pile up work and be stressed and not sleep.

Jokes aside, this is the biggest and best experience I look forward to every year. I have watched book fair being built from scratch. Ever since I was a toddler, I have spent the book fair days on the ground, from Maidan to Milan Mela and now Salt Lake Central Park. I have also heard stories about how I got lost in the fair once when I was barely three. But found my way to the Guild house on the ground, much to my parent’s amazement and relief. So now, it feels surreal when I visit the fair as a publisher and the coordinator of Kolkata Literature Festival.

 The Kolkata Literature Festival, is a project very close to my heart, and I am grateful to be a part of it. I cannot believe that this will be the 6th year of the festival. KLF hosts authors and artists from all over the world. We ideate, contact, connect, convince, and then set up everything from the stage to the background LED. The flight fares, conveyance and hotels too are taken care of by us.

Last year we faced a challenge as there were a lot of new team members. Walking them through the entire process of how KLF works, and how they should proceed with the Festival work seemed like a challenge because of the time constraint. But it went on to become one of the best edition. I hope we can continue this every year.

KLF is a collective effort and I am so grateful that we have a team of people who are all hard working and love the work they do. Our seniors also have enough faith in us and keeps a check only from a distance.

This year again we have some new faces and mostly old one. I have started believing change is the only constant. And change also brings in new experiences and breaks your belief and reestablishes new ones.

KLF this year is exciting for many reasons, but I will keep that for a different post. Just to say a little, we have arranged for many socially relevant issues, some prizes.

Coming back to my role as a publisher. I take special interest in the look of our BEE stall. It has taken a lot of hard work and sweat to take BEE to its current position. Every year we keep updating the design of our stall. Try and change the faults from the previous year and learn from the present mistakes. Here’s a throwback picture of my BEE Stall.

We believe everything built with love and dedication, exudes warmth. We also believe in everything bright and beautiful. If you do visit our stall at IKBF, please tag us on instagram.

One of my most joyous and humbling experience as a publisher is being able to publish our Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee’s books. Not many know that our company’s first book officially was Best of Mamata. I was called to the CM’s office when she came to know about the English publishing press I was starting. From then on we have received a lot of love and support from our beloved CM . Every year we release one book of hers and this also forms a highlight every year, when she inaugurates the book at the book fair. Last year we brought out her autobiography, My Journey.


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