Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Auf Wiedersehen, Karadi!

In October 2010, Shobha Viswanth and Manasi Subramaniam represented Karadi Tales at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2010. Here's a quick report!

In Germany for the Frankfurt Book Fair 2010 earlier this month, we experienced a very unique sort of joy: the joy of showing off our wonderful collection of picture books to people from all over the world. We felt like happy parents, ridiculously enthusiastic and relentlessly pushy, beaming with the kind of sublime pride that can only come from ownership, every time someone paid our books a compliment. 

But before we get caught up in that, here's a quick recap of our six wonderful days at Frankfurt.

We left Chennai at an ungodly hour on the night of 4 Octiber and arrived in Frankfurt early the next morning, completely sleep-deprived, but very excited. Not wanting to lose any time, we checked into our hotel and headed straight for the messe (the fair grounds), lugging strolleys and backpacks filled with books and catalogues. Right away, we should warn you: nothing can prepare the uninitiated for the overwhelming largeness of the messe. Buzzing with people, shops and even buses that transport people from one hall to another, it is busy, packed and just alarmingly huge. 

We located our stand (Hall 6.0 Row E Stand 922), conveniently placed in the Indian Pavilion, right opposite a cafe and right next to the clients' lounge, and began to set up our shelves and books. With our books lined up against the wall, our stand looked colourful and inviting, but something was missing and we simply couldn't put our finger on it... And then, we realised what it was - the stand needed a plant to breathe some life into it! So off we went to buy a flowering pot. How it livened our stand up!

Once we were set, we began to explore the messe. We dropped in on our neighbours, visited other halls and simply took the whole place in (and what a lot there was to take in!). 

That evening, we explored the city of Frankfurt, ate a quiet dinner and slept our jetlag away!

The next day was the first day at the fair - and our schedules were full with appointments every half hour from 09:00 AM to 06:00 PM - and a dinner appointment afterwards! The messe was simply swarming with publishers busily rushing from meetings to seminars, from conferences to discussions. Our own appointments kept us completely occupied, with hardly any time at all to take in the books that surrounded us. Several of our meetings were at our own stand, while a few were at the stands of other publishers. 

Of course, getting from one hall to another is a time-consuming process, especially if you're constantly finding that beautiful books beckon you every time you go past them! But everyone at Frankfurt has a busy schedule - and no one's going to wait for dreamy-eyed book-lovers, so we rushed, of course, to make it everywhere in time. Another tip for the uninitiated: Don't carry fancy, formal, pointy-toed, high-heeled boots to Frankfurt, no matter how gorgeous they look! 

Somehow, at the end of the day, we finally managed to make it (with a trusty road-map to guide us) to our dinner meeting at a Thai restaurant near the city centre. It's almost sinful how delicious food and wine can soothe weary hearts and legs! Tired, but very happy, we returned for a good night's sleep.

The days that followed were no different. Publishers from Germany, France, Canada, Switzerland, Denmark, Egypt, Italy, the UAE, the USA, the UK and several other parts of the world trooped into our stand constantly. We alternated appointments between ourselves, often having to take two appointments simultaneously when we were double-booked, and occasionally able to relieve each other from manning the stand. The cafe came in handy when our stand became too crowded with publishers! Translators, illustrators and even book-lovers would drop in on a regular basis when our colourful books caught their eyes and sparked their interests. 

We scarcely found the time to grab ourselves a quick bite to eat, although Ranjith Singh, our amiable dabba-wallah, armed with packed thaalis of North Indian khana, dropped off a delicious box-lunch at our stand everyday. Reviving ourselves with regular cups of coffee and tea from our wonderful cafe, we forged right ahead, thoroughly enjoying the prospect of having our days so filled with the books we so love. Our evenings were often occupied with cocktail receptions and parties hosted by various organisations, where the publishing world would get together to loosen ties, relax and unwind after a long day.

We participated in seminars and discussion groups organised by the German Book Office, including a matchmaking session between Indian and Argentine publishers, meeting with a delegation of South Asian librarians and a guided book tour of German children's publishers. One evening, Shobha spoke at a seminar on glimpses of the Indian publishing industry in a panel discussion with German publisher, Renate Reichstein of Verlagsgruppe Oetinger. Her talk was extremely well-received, especially when she regaled the participants with a hilarious storytelling session of Monkeys on a Fast.

By the last day, we were thoroughly exhausted, but delighted with the interest that our books generated from all parts of the world. We were completely out of catalogues and books and had an empty stand to look after - empty except, of course, for our beautiful flowering plant! Leaving the plant as a gift to the wonderful lady who managed the cafe that kept us alive, clutching our beloved appointment diaries and schedules, we said 'Auf wiedersehen' to the messe and returned, almost forlornly, to our hotel rooms for one final night in Frankfurt.