Indians are among the world’s top readers according to a recent survey. While the survey and its findings may be open to debate, the fact remains that there has been a spurt in the reading habit like never before. The growth of Indian writing, easy access to books online and the emergence of e-tailing book stores have also contributed to this trend. Second hand books are being sold and bought online and free ads in India enable people to advertise the books. According to the World Culture Score Index, Indians spend more than 10 hours per week reading! A reflection of this new found interest in books can be seen in the mushrooming of lit fests all over the country. The World Book Fair which has always been an annual event in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan got a lit-fest makeover this year as author sessions, book launches, book signings and a whole host of discussions and talks were organised. I had the rare privilege of being not just a visitor at the World Book Fair this year but also being on an author panel at the first Delhi Lit Fest — along with other romance authors — to discuss trends in romance writing.
The Jaipur Lit Fest, which was among the first of its kind, attracted huge crowds this year. Visitors of all ages thronged the Diggi Palace, the venue where the Litfest was being held. Over the weekend the crowds were so thick, one could be forgiven for thinking we had stumbled on to the Howrah railway station in Kolkata! People of all ages had braved the winter chills and gathered at the various sessions. School girls and boys, in their uniforms, trooped in with books in their hands to get them autographed by their favourite authors. Young adults and working professionals had arrived from all over the country. Every session at the litfest was spilling over with audiences who were not afraid to pose tough questions to some of the celebrated writers who were up on the dais. At the creativity workshops, aspiring writers — many of whom were in their teens — raised pertinent questions about writing styles, structures, writing process.
Perhaps the highlight of the event was when Amish Tripathi, author of the Shiva trilogy series, walked up to the dais and the huge crowds that were spilling out on to the grounds of the venue burst into spontaneous applause. The cheering went on for long minutes and Tripathi in true rockstar mode, bowed to his applauding fans! During the Q&A Tripathi was quizzed about his books by ninth and tenth grade students which prompted the author to quip: “If kids can ask such deep philosophical questions, the future of India is in great hands.”
Clearly, the message was loud and clear… Indian readers think it’s “cool” to read. What can be more heartwarming than that?