“Publishing remains a sacred business”
–opines Baldeo Bhai Sharma, chairman, National Book Trust, India, in conversation with ABP editors SK Khurana and Varsha Verma.
Baldeo Bhai Sharma, chairman, National Book Trust (NBT), India feels that NBT, India has a very wide mandate of producing and encouraging the production of good literature in English, Hindi and other Indian languages and to make such literature available at moderate prices to the public. “It also brings out book catalogues, arranges book fairs/ exhibitions and seminars. Hence, the NBT is working on a very large scale and we are constantly striving for better execution of all these activities,” he shared.
Book promotion activities…
Citing the example of book promotion activities by NBT, India, he shared that NBT not only hosts New Delhi World Book Fair in capital of India, but also organises small book fairs at state levels. “Our mobile book vans travel across the country at different time intervals. We try our best to reach the minorities and underprivileged people across the nation. Recently, our vans went to Bihar in areas where lot of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes reside. Our vans were there for two months in six such districts of Bihar and we were overwhelmed with the response and lot of books were sold. Similarly, we went to hill regions of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir where books are not easily available. These are the regions where people wish to read but there are no books available. NBT, India reaches out to such areas and in fact we have given momentum to these activities recently,” told Sharma.
“Besides, NBT, India also organises seminars in schools and colleges so that we can connect with the new generation and enhance their reading habits,” he told.
NBT, India brings out a host of innovative titles for all regions and all sections of the society. “The literarcy rate in India is increasing and today 84 percent people are literate in India and NBT, India, publishes books for all kinds of people. For example, we have books for new literates, so do we have books for farmers. In fact, we have over two dozen books for them, including one for women farmers. We also have books on animal rearing. We are happy that we cover such vast section of society,” he told.
“NBT also publishes books on science, environment, culture, etc. For children books, we have a separate section – NCCL,” he shared. The National Centre for Children’s Literature (NCCL) was set up in 1993 as a coordinating agency to promote children’s literature in all the languages of India. This centre helps in creation and translation of useful books for children. At the same time, it also works for monitoring, coordinating and aiding the publication of children’s literature in the country. “We publish interesting, entertaining and attractive quality books for children under NCCL,” he added.
“It is a pleasure to see not just children, but also young working population and housewives reading books. Folktales from various regions across the country are very interesting. For example, we have a book on stories behind proverbs – Kahaani Kahawaton Ki – which is very interesting for people of all ages. We even have a book on traditional games played in India, which have now totally disappeared. Children find it very amusing to read such books.
On Indian literature…
“In my opinion, Indian literature is not second to any literature in the world. Literature has been a part of our tradition. Our aim of creativity, as compared to western countries, is superior in all respects. Rigveda is the first granth of mankind and now even UNESCO has included the 3,000-year-old manuscripts of the Rigveda in its cultural list for posterity, under its programme “Memory of the World” Register 2007. In fact, the teachings of Rigveda are applicable in today’s scenario as well. It is not limited to any particular region, caste or religion,” he told.
Talking about the various writers from India, he added that they have done their best to continue the tradition of writing best-in-class literature. Another interesting point he mentioned was that Kalidas is known as Shakespeare of East, even though Kalidas was born much before Shakespeare. “Kalidas literature shows all facets of human emotions while Shakespeare was only known for his portrayal of tragedies,” he explained.
Publishers in India are also not behind in technology as well. They are tech-savvy and use the best available technologies for production. “Over 1,00,000 titles are produced in India every year and this is because Indian publishing is growing steadily,” he added. He also mentioned about Arnold Toynbee whose book on European industrial revolution says that people can find peace in Indian culture. “The book says that Industrial revolution brought prosperity, but also became a major reason for clashes between countries and unrest in the world. To find peace, one can learn from Indian culture,” he proudly said.
NBT @ BIBF
“Beijing International Book Festival (BIBF) was a fair for the trade. It was very well organised and we have taken note of several things which can be used for our upcoming New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF),” he added. “NBT, India had a very useful participation at BIBF. Our books were appreciated a lot and we found that many Chinese people know about NBT, India and have been reading its books since long.”
NBT @ FBF
NBT, India is also participating at Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) this year and they are now looking forward to their collective participation along with Sahitya Akademi, Publications Department, etc. “A few events are also planned for the show,” he said.
The upcoming NDWBF…
The New Delhi World Book Fa i r 2016 will be held from January 9-17, 2016. “NDWBF is a book festival and I have seen a lot of enthusiasm amongst visitors. This year, the theme is ‘YOGA’, which is in sync with the prime minister Narendra Modi’s mega effort to take yoga on the international stage.
Recently, the first International Yoga Day was celebrated on June 21, in which 165 countries participated enthusiastically. Yoga is not for any particular religion, but it is a way of life for all. So, we will display books and activities related to Yoga at the fair,” told Sharma. NBT, India is also publishing a few books on Yoga. “One book was recently launched and few more are in the pipeline, he shared.
“Another new initiative is to publish books from new authors, under our initiative – Nav Lekhan Mala – which would be later expanded to publishing of books in different languages as well. Through this, we wish to develop a new generation of authors,” added Sharma.
Talking about China as the guest of honour country at NDWBF, he shared that China is very enthusiastic about their participation and there would be a big delegation of Chinese publishers. “They are looking for publishing few Chinese books in India and vice versa. They are also planning a programme in lines with CEOSpeak organised by NBT, India and FICCI jointly. This would be held on the same day as CEOSpeak. It would be a new experiment and we hope it would be very fruitful for the attendees,” he told.
On a concluding note…
“Publishing industry is undoubtedly a business, but it is also a big responsibility for publishers to educate the society. Education does not come only from course books, but it is imparted through various kinds of books, which develop the personality and skills of the readers. Books give a direction to life. So, publishers should look at a wider perspective and it is the responsibility of the publishers as well that books reach a wider audience and remain affordable as well. It is a sacred business and they should be proud of this profession,” he concluded.