Kolkata Book fair Diary : Million footsteps
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The Kolkata Literary Meet, the promise of rubbing shoulders with dignitaries and the general attraction to the book fair drew crowds by the thousand on Sunday, the first weekend after the fair started. However, with new restrictions placed on pedestrians, the crowd comprising hundreds walking in files along the Bypass, to get in and out of the fair, started to get restive. "You have to walk almost a mile to get to the bus stop. It wouldn't be so much of a bother if the pavements and roads were properly maintained. There's so much dust and sand even on the pavements that my son is coughing endlessly," said Rakhi Mitra, a housewife from Tollygunge who was at the fair with her 8-year-old son. The construction of the east-west Metro corridor added to the pedestrians' woes. Another visitor was overheard, saying, "Eto College Square er pandal er moto bhir (The crowd's as huge as the ones during Durga Puja at College Square pandal)". The footfall at the fair on Sunday evening was 2,50,000.
Despite all the passes for the meet being booked days in advance, the first couple of days didn't register packed houses at the various sessions. The meet was opened to everyone thereafter and started drawing the crowds. While the crowd was a healthy mix of fans, literary enthusiasts and journalists, there was also a large number of weary book shoppers who had just come to cool their heels - literally - at the air-conditioned literary meet and UBI pavilions. "There are a lot of people who have come in just like that. It is very embarrassing when people get up noisily with shopping bags and leave the hall when a discussion is on full swing. This doesn't reflect well on the reading culture of the city," said Rahul Mitra, a US-based techie who was in town for vacation and was attending the literary meet.
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