It was a great joy when National Book Fair happened in my school for the first time, putting my school in the center of over hundred schools from western half of the country. It also gave me satisfaction knowing that we are finally understanding the need to equate events in and out of Thimphu to narrow the gaps between the extremes. Just by know that Thimphu is not the center of earth we could ease lots of social issues.
The organizer and the book stores were bombarded with pleasant surprises- they never seemed to have expected beyond what they had seen in Thimphu for last four years. Many of them literally ran out of stock and spent all seven days in Bajothang smiling. Unlike Thimphu there were hardly any preoccupations that distracted people away from books and therefore people who were sent to buy books were really buying books. For the first time I saw so many school buses parked in my school. As far as sale of books is concerned the event was a grand success, though the buyers were only school libraries with government funds.
However the bigger question is why we are investing millions in books when we know that reading habit is almost extinct in schools? Is being optimist enough? Shouldn’t we invest in building the culture of reading? What is the purpose of Book Fair? Is it to spoil the business of book stores that didn’t participate?
My idea of a Book Fair was an event where the organizer will involve schools in activities that glorify books, where the best readers from different regions will present their reads and suggestions over the seven days, where Bhutanese Writers will be invited to read and autograph their books for buyers, where buyers are inspired to invest in books… But I was wrong.
The book fair here was an absolute business; everybody was engaged in buying and selling of books with money that didn’t belong to them. And some, I heard, were capable of finding half a million worth of books in a single stall ignoring 24 others. It was already sad to know that Book Fair was just a business, and now some were making it dirty business for the sake of relationship.I believe official who were monitoring the event took note of that.
My school had the luxury of sending every subject department to look for our own books and our democratic approach led to diverse choice and subjects, and we finally found that we have purchased from 16 stalls.
I personally bought Dear Seday- …letter from the mountains by Ugyen Gyeltshen, one of the most promising writers on Writer Association of Bhutan blog. His story was born on our blog and it grew there day after day, until one day his readers insisted him to turn the story into a book. I am reading it now and will write about it soon.