As a Chennaite who loves reading books, do you know the one event I cannot miss?
The Chennai Book Fair!
Chennai Book Fair is one of the biggest events in the city for all the bookworms out there. It takes place annually and runs for nearly 10-15 days at the YMCA. Imagine huge grounds, cheap tickets, hundreds of bookstalls, discounts and sales almost everywhere, surrounded by people who don’t just read but also talk books… Ain’t that the dream!
Chennai Book Fair Experience!
Every year, my sister and I make a field trip to the fair. Our piggy banks are smashed, and the internet is shut for the day. And after a lot of scolding from our parents to not buy more than two books, we leave for the fair deciding not to leave without at least five books. And this year, before things turned to hell, the book fair was held in late February.
Armed with sanitizers and armored with masks, we made it through the crowded parking lot and into the place I’d like to call heaven on earth. Stalls after stalls after stalls were filled with colorful, big, and beautiful books. We both went our own way, and I soon landed on a stall that said 4 for 200. Little did I know that the very stall would give me a run for my money? Finding a big offer in the fair is like finding a rare diamond in a goldmine. You want it all, but you want this even more. So, I step in where some racks are neatly arranged, and some racks are deranged. I noticed how they had stacks of the same book in case more people would like to buy it. Though my fingers itched, I made sure not to touch the books due to COVID – 19 and slowly walked around with a bent neck.
Being a regular reader of mystery and thriller, I was open to reading a different genre for the first time in my life, and with a heavy heart, I cast a blind eye to the Pattersons and the Archers. Finally, I reached an aisle where I saw romance books—thinking why not, I started skimming through the books there. A few displayed cliché plots, whilst I didn’t find a few others appealing.
But that was until I landed on this one specific book…
It was a bit dusty, but when I flipped to the back cover, the plot summary made me realize that it was the Holy Grail, and I had to read it. Except for a teeny-tiny detail… That section of the stall did not fall under the 4 for 200 discounts. Now, of course, I could’ve easily bought the book for the given rate if it wasn’t for a couple of books in my bag and three other seemingly super-interesting books; my hand was hooked around. (Come on, two of them were going to take me through the Afghan war zone. How could I have said no?)
So, I did the thing which I till date regret. I put the book of romance down. I billed the other books and went to find my sister. All along the way, I just couldn’t get the book out of my mind. I was already weighing six books in my bag and had no idea how many my sister had bought, but still, I couldn’t seem to forget it. I found my sister and told her of the book. She sympathized. And then, as we were making our way out with our haul, she tells me, ‘We shouldn’t have gotten 10 books in the first place… But since we have, what’s one more?’ I thought about it for a while and asking her to stay where she was; I made a run for it just like the romantic lady who chases her forbidden love.
Two things – I don’t remember the number of the stall, and I couldn’t remember the name of the book. Just my luck, huh? Still, just like Tris, who was determined to stop Erudite’s simulation (Divergent series reference), I was determined to find that damned book!
I tried writing down the plot on Google only to be met with zero networks. Yet, deep down, I knew that if I saw the book, I would recognize it. So, thinking, tracking down my footsteps, I rushed aisle after aisle. After a long search of nearly 30 – 40 minutes, I finally found the stall.
I stepped in excitedly, walked to the same place where I found the book and there it… Wasn’t!
In my fierce quest to find “the one” book, I failed to grasp one of the basic notions that come with reading romance. That not all love stories get happy endings. And for the first time in my life, I felt heavy frustration over something so simple. With my head bowed and shoulders slump, I left the stall. A minuscule of hope spoke that some other stall might have it, and I checked a few on my way out. Nothing. Zilch… Without the name of the book or the author, no one knew what I was talking about. I didn’t blame them.
Trying to cheer up over the books I’ve got, I left. Days went, and my hunt continued over the internet with little luck. Names of books popped up, but it just wasn’t that book. Finally, the fair ended on a festive note, and I started reading the books I bought. Months passed, and the incident lay shut in my heart, not forgotten.
May arrived, bringing abreast the blazing sun, and one fine day, my colleagues and I were pitching ideas for the month’s issue of the magazine I work for, and I narrated my experience at the fair. They nodded and spoke some relatable things. As we all got back to our systems, I scrolled through Instagram, and my fingers stopped at a video by Netflix. I tapped on the IGTV to watch the latest trailer. I saw Shailene Woodley in a 90’s attire and Felicity Jones in a reporter’s disguise.
Suddenly I was sitting up, doing my best to contain my excitement. I didn’t want to jump up and down with joy too soon. Could it be? The trailer ended…
AND IT WAS!
It was that book from the fair adapted into a Netflix film! My lips stretched into the biggest smile, and I couldn’t stop the bliss of the victory that rushed through me. It is true, my dear readers… If you truly wanted something, the universe gets it to you one way or the other… Yaay!
I opened my diary and took note of the title. I returned home that evening, eager to order the novel. Unfortunately for me, as soon as my order took place, it was delayed due to the strict lockdown by the state. It’s alright. I think as I type this, my wait wasn’t in vain. I eagerly sit in my house now, tracking my order, hoping The Last Letter From Your Lover will reach me soon before the film releases. And as soon as it does, my lovely readers, you can expect a truthful review about one of my rare romantic reads that took me through this twisted ride.
Maheen is an explorer who seeks adventure in the pages of different books. What she reads, she pens; what she doesn’t read, she creates!