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Star authors, crowds and big sales mark Indian presence at fair

From Arundhati Roy and Anupam Kher to the chef Naushad, the India Pavilion enjoyed a big draw at this year's Sharjah International Book Fair.

The India Pavilion at the Sharjah International Book Fair has been growing over the years and this year saw almost a 500 per cent increase in publisher participation. The crowds it attracted were also huge - not just at the book stalls but also at the Meet the Author sessions it hosted, with organisers roping in noted writers including William Dalrymple, Arundhati Roy and Anupam Kher.

"We were happy that almost 25 per cent of the stalls were from India," says Ravi DeeCee of DC Books, one of southern India's largest booksellers and publishing houses, which coordinated the India Pavilion.

The first Meet the Author session saw essayist and writer Pankaj Mishra talking about his latest book From the Ruins of Empire, while the second day was packed with both the Malayalam writer Sethu and Arundhati Roy, billed as the star attraction of the fair.

Roy, who read from her Booker Prize winner The God of Small Things, was a crowd magnet and there was hardly even standing space left.

The response from schoolchildren this year was terrific. They came in droves to hear both the novelist Namita Gokhale and the actor-turned-author Anupam Kher, who was a big hit, narrating stories from his childhood.

DC Books also catered to the large Malayali population in the UAE by bringing in the popular Kerala chef Naushad as well as writers such as Paul Zacharia and Benyamin.

On Thursday night, the pavilion had crowds jostling for space and several visitors were seen exiting with cartloads of books. And, according to DC Books, there was a 30 to 50 per cent growth in sales compared to last year.

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