The Amar Ekushey Book Fair has undergone many changes since its inception in 1972 but one thing has remained unchanged — the relation with Dhaka University and its current and former students.
Over the decades, it has grown into a phenomenal fest. This year, the fair is drawing huge crowds every day. A large section of them — current or former DU students – were seen roaming around stalls, gossiping about authors, arguing about their works and buying books.
Sociology student Julkarnain Ahmed was very excited. “I’m planning to buy lots of new book,” he said as his gaze shifted from one title to another. “But, I’m short on cash. I’ll wait for my tuition payday.”
He said the Suhrawardy Udyan and Bangla Academy premises turn into his favourite destination for an evening walk during the book fair.
Not everyone from the university is looking for pleasure readings. Some are gathering materials for their current semesters. Jannatul Ferdous Brishty, a student of Women and Gender Studies, is one of them.
“The close proximity of the fair allows me to check new titles related to my studies,” Brishty explained. She said lucrative discounts brought down the expenses. “We even find rare books unavailable at our department’s library,” she added.
This year, the fairground has been extended to 550,000 square feet. It’s a welcome change for Fatima Akhond, a student of Peace and Conflict Studies.
“The growing compound of the fair has made visitors’ movement easier,” she said, quickly adding, “My experience may change depending on the number of visitors in the coming days.”
For many first-timers, including new DU students, the month-long festival offers a great experience. Antora Roy, a first-year psychology student said the fair was mesmerising.
“I’m from Barishal and as an avid reader, I’ve always dreamt of coming here,” she said. “It’s my first visit and I feel it’s a dream come true.”
The fair gives a nostalgic vibe. Private bank employee Moumi Khondoker, a former philosophy student, insisted that coming to the fair had become a routine since her university days.
“The stalls have changed, new students have taken our place, but the fair is still a place where I find a breath of fresh air,” she said. “Apart from the books, the fair is also a place to find old friends.”
Seminars and events held at the fair also attract many people such as Hridvika Paul, a student of DU English department. “They help expand my understanding of many things,” she said.
But it was Ishraq Sabbir, a third-year journalism student, who summed up the feeling.
“The fair is a fuel for the soul,” he told UNB. “You cannot imagine any other literary festivals on this scale in Bangladesh where one is surrounded by books, books, and books.”unb