INDIA as the Guest Country at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair

India was designated as the Guest of Honour at the 29th edition of Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2019 (24-30 April). The National Book Trust, India (under the Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India) was the nodal agency coordinating the Guest Country Presentation at the Book Fair. A strong delegation of nearly 100 delegates comprising of authors, children writers, science communicators, artists, CMDs, Directors, senior publishing professionals of 21 publishing houses led by Prof. Govind Prasad Sharma, Chairman, National Book Trust, India returned to India last week after a very successful visit.  

The nearly 1100 sq. metres India Pavilion, got designed by National Book Trust, India through the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, its Design Partner for the Guest of Honour Presentations, was visited on the opening day by HH Saif bin Zayed Al Nhyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, UAE; and later on by HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister for Tolerance. 

Earlier on the opening day, H.E. Saif Gobash, Undersecretary, DCT Abu Dhabi, along with Ambassador Navdeep Suri, and Chairman NBT, Prof. Govind Prasad Sharma, and Dr. Rita Chowdhury, Director, NBT, officially inaugurated the Indian with a lamp-lighting ceremony.

The ceremony was followed with the release of ten children’s titles translated into Arabic and published by the National Book Trust India. The titles launched in Arabic translation included: Stories from Bapu’s Life (Anecdotes about Mahatma Gandhi), Rabindranath Tagore’s Chhutti (Holidays have Come, Goa- A Story of Wonderland, This is My Story, The Rainbow, Name That Animal, Sheela and Leela, The Whole Wide World, One Day.. and My Umma’s Sari.

With the slogan “LET OUR LIVES BE OPEN BOOKS” taken from Mahatma Gandhi’s quotation, the India Guest Country Presentation had lots to offer. The INDIA PAVILION housed 21 Indian publishers from across the country, in addition to Illustrator’s and Author’s Corner, Children’s activity area, Literary programmes and Cultural events stage, Mahatma Gandhi installation, Indian Books Rights’ Exchange Corner and Catalogue Showcase, Reading spaces display, Indian Banyan Tree installation highlighting the plurality and diversity of Indian languages, their origins, and their journey towards the written form. Also housed in the INDIA PAVILION were the Indian Food corner, and the Business club.

The Guest Country Presentation had various literary events, children’s activities and other programmes being held throughout the duration of the book fair, including various business sessions like India and Arab/Emirati Round Table conferences. The book fair saw huge sales of Indian books, and many translation agreements and copyright exchanges taking place between Indian publishers in the INDIA PAVILION and the Arab publishers.

Some of the important delegates included eminent authors/ artists/publishers such as Pandit Birju Maharaj, Prof. Manoj Das, Madhav Kaushik (Vice-President, Sahitya Akademi), Birad Rajaram Yagnik, Preeti Shenoy, Divik Ramesh, Sarjoo Katkar, P Sivakami, Rakshanda Jalil, Indu Menon, Prof. Zikurur Rahman, S. Saradakutty, Surjit Patar, Amish Tripathi, Lalit Behari Goswami, Anjana Chattopadhyay, Nand Kishore Pandey, Director Kendriya Hindi Sansthan, Agra, Aquil Ahmad, Director, NCPUL, Viky Arya, Ramesh Mittal, Chairman, CAPEXIL and President, FIP, A K Sinha, Director, IGNCA, Arvind C Ranade of Vigyan Prasasr, Rajendra Bhatt, Director,   Publications Division, Prof. M Siraj Anwar of NCERT,  Harpreet Singh, Jasbeer Jassi, Kutle Khan.

Programme Highlights:

  • A panel discussion titled ‘People and Places: Cultural Communication to Children through Translations’ talked about 10 Indian books launched in Arabic during with Prof Zikrur-Rahman, Viky Arya, Divik Ramesh, Rita Chowdhury, Prof. Govind Prasad Sharma and Kumar Vikram.
  • An innovative storytelling session with Indian puppets and masks. This creative session was organised by National Book Trust and moderated by Pavithra Ramanujan of NID. Students of Emirates Future International Academy, Abu Dhabi, enjoyed an interactive session learning intricacies of storytelling through puppets and masks. 
  • Launch of the Arabic edition of Peace, Truth, Ahimsa: A Photo biography of Mahatma Gandhi, authored by Birad Rajaram Yajnik, in presence of Ambassador Navdeep Suri. The release was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Gandhi and the Arab World’, with Prof. Zikrur Rahman, Prof. Govind Prasad Sharma, Birad Yajnik and S Gopalakrishnan.
  • A round table with Indian–Emirati publishers, organised by National Book Trust and UAE Publishers’ Association was held in the Business Club, where rights exchanges and translation agreements were discussed between Indian and Emirati publishers.
  • A Hindi learning workshop by Divik Ramesh, with Nand Kishore Pandey and Lalit Kishore Mandora was held.
  • Ambassador Navdeep Suri discussed his latest book titled “Khooni Vaisakhi”. The original poem was written in Punjabi by the author’s grandfather Nanak Singh who is considered as the father of Punjabi Literature and is probably the only survivor account of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. The session started with rendition of original poem by Harpreet Singh, setting the tone for an intriguing discussion, moderated by Shajahan Madampat.
  • Various Reading sessions and panel discussions by Sahitya Akademi, India’s national academy of letters were held. The panellists included Madhav Kaushik, C. Radhakrishnan, P Sivakami, Rakshanda Jalil, Sarjoo Kaktkar, and coordinated by Krishna Kimbahune.
  • Readings and recitations from the works of stalwarts of Marathi and Konkani writers was organised. The programme also focussed on Jnanpith awardees and their contribution towards Marathi and Konkani Literature. The event was coordinated by Prachiti Talathi-Gandhi and Nivedita (Marathi Consultant with NBT).
  • Dance Performances by Odissi dance group, Bharatnatyam, and Gurukul Group – organised by the Embassy of India. Spreading the magic of classical Indian dance, Kalashree Rashika Ojha Abrol, began the cultural evening of Day 2 with Ardhanareeshwara Ashtakam of Bharatnatyam.
  • A discussion titled ‘Women scientists of India’ was organised with Anjana Chattopadhyay & Friends of KSSP, Abu Dhabi Unit, Cini Atchuthan, K P Unnikrishnan, and Nishad Hussain Kaippally.
  • From the maestro himself! Visitors at ADIBF2019 got a chance to interact with one of the finest Indian classical dancers of all times – Pandit Birju Maharaj. An insightful peek into the beautiful dance form of Kathak!
  • Of Art and Budding Artists! A group of curious students gathered for an Illustrator’s Workshop by author Viky Arya, a session organised by NBT.
  • Literature is the building block for the younger generation! Importance of Children’s Literature in Indian languages and its scope was discussed in an interesting session with Prof. Govind Prasad Sharma, Manoj Das, Dr. Rita Chowdhury, and Divik Ramesh.
  • With new ideas of motivation and self-help, one of India’s bestselling authors Preeti Shenoy’s new book ‘Wake Up, Life Is Calling’ is a complete package in itself. The launch session was moderated by Ravi Menon and the book was unveiled by Ambassador Navdeep Suri.
  • Storytelling Session for Children by Viky Arya, with editorial co-ordination by Vasundhara Lal and Carolyn Pao. National Book Trust, India organised a storytelling session for children conducted by Viky Arya. The session was anchored by Kumar Vikram.
  • A session titled Promoting Authorship among the Indian Diaspora was organised by LiFi publications.
  • The roundtable conference of India-Arab Publishers’ Forum was organised by NBT and Arab Publishers’ Association at the Business Lounge of INDIA PAVILION. Moderated by Ramesh Mittal, Chairman, CAPEXIL and President, FIP, and addressed by Prof. Govind Prasad Sharma, Chairman, NBT in the presence of Dr. Rita Chowdhury, Director, NBT. Nearly 35 publishers from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Arab countries participated in the discussions. All 21 participating Indian publishers attended the interactions with the Arab publishers for copyright exchange and translations programmes. Prof. Zikurur Rahman anchored the discussions. The event was co-ordinated by Shri Kumar Vikram and Ms. Kanchan Wanchoo Sharma.
  • Exploring the Life of the Mahatma. A session by Birad Rajaram Yajnik especially tailored for the young audience, talked about the ideals espoused by Mahatma Gandhi, emphasizing on Peace, Truth and Ahimsa.
  • A session titled My Little India, saw Manoj Das the famous English & Odia writer and S Gopalakrishnan, a UAE-based Malayalam writer and journalist, explore the Indian values in the changing milieu.
  • Hindi-Urdu-Punjabi Saajhi Virasat. A panel discussion with Surjit Patar, Aquil Ahmad, Lalit Behari Goswami, and Shridhar Paradakar. Also in conversation were Shams Equbal, Lalit Kishore Mandora and Navjot Kaur.
  • Making of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. This presentation was made by Rajendra Bhatt, Director of Publications Division.
  • S Saradakutty & Indu Menon interacted with Indian diaspora Malayalam writers including Sonia Rafeek, Anil Devassye, Manikandan Puzhikkadavath, K M Abbas, Shemi Fazlu. The session was moderated by Rubin D’Cruz.
  • To Remember, I Invented people, was a session by Deepak Unnikrishnan, about the role memory played in recalling the people who raised him, influencing the book he ended up writing, titled Temporary People.
  • Yoga workshop and demonstration by Priyanka, Midori Sato and Philip Evan Cowlishaw. Cultural performance by Ankita Kaushik. This session was organised by Embassy of India.
  • Timeless Hindi & Urdu fables, tales and poetic recitals, brightened the evening at ADIBF as narrators and language experts transported the audience into the enigmatic world of story-telling. The well-received session was organized by NCPUL. 
  • A reception hosted by Indian Embassy and NBT to celebrate India’s participation at ADIBF as Guest of Honour was attended by H.E. Ahmed Al Hay Al Hameli (Director, MoFAIC), Abdullah Majid (Director, ADIBF), Dr. B. R Shetty, renowned authors & other dignitaries.
  • Experts gathered at India pavilion to discuss an interesting topic ‘Arab Vich Nanak.’ A distinguished panel including Surjit Patar, S P Singh Oberoi, Sarbjinder Singh, & Navjot Kaur explored philosophical, musical & literary journey of Guru Nanakin the Arab region.
  • A session on ‘World of Women Writers’ was organised with Dr. Rita Chowdhury, Ms. S Saradakutty, Ms. Indu Menon as panellists and Mr. Rubin D’Cruz as moderator. The eminent women writers tried to bust the myth that there is a separate world of women writers and all authors operate in the same socio-literary contexts as other contemporary male authors.
  • A poetic end to an exciting day! Day 6 of ADIBF2019 wrapped itself in rhythmic tunes with Malayalam Kavi Sammelan, wherein poets from the Indian diaspora shared their beautiful creations. The engaging session was moderated by Rubin D’Cruz.
  • The language of Vedas and scriptures, Sanskrit, echoed at the India pavilion during ADIBF2019 as experts conducted a workshop on the intricacies of the ancient language known as one of the oldest surviving languages in the world. Samskrita Bharti, UAE organized a Sanskrit Language Workshop in the India Pavilion.
  • Bringing the fragrance of Punjab – the prosperous land of five rivers – Jasbir Jassi, the famous Punjabi singer, enthralled & captivated the audience as he performed live! A memorable evening for all his fans and audience, as the fair approached the conclusion of Day 6
  • A Punjabi Poetry Meet was organized in the India Pavilion. Eminent Punjabi poet Shri Surjit Patar chaired the event. Poets Deepak Sharma, Chanarthal, Lakhvinder Johal, Sarbjit Kaur Sohal, Sukhdev Singh Sirsa and Surjit Singh Judge recited their works during the session. Ms. Navjot Kaur moderated the session.

The INDIA PAVILION was visited everyday by the local visitors as well as by the large Indian community. The print and electronic Media covered the daily events with great enthusiasm. The 7-day book fair saw a successful India Guest of Honour Country Presentation.