Why a Bookstore creating a Literature Festival is as Special as it is unique!

by Maina Bhagat

As we prepare to celebrate the 10th year of the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival, (Jan 18- 20th ) and herald the upcoming centenary  of India’s much loved Oxford Bookstore Park Street, I sit here in my office at the Oxford Bookstore contemplating the journey, which is, indeed, the destination.

I believe , as the Spanish novelist Jorge Carrion enunciated beautifully,  Every bookshop is a condensed version of the world. The world’s bookstores reveals the world itself. Bookstores have a certain comfort to them. No matter what city you’re in, no matter whether it’s your first or your hundredth visit, there is a sense of familiarity as you enter. As Priti Paul, Director Apeejay Surrendra Group comments “Building a bookstore, I believe is not about building a high rise, it is about reviving a culture.”  

Oxford Bookstore has pursued this mission 365 days a year for the last 100 years and The Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival came into being from this same philosophy.  The festival has contributed greatly to giving Kolkata back its literary edge, something we felt it was losing which is why we conceptualised and initiated the Literary Festival a decade ago. Others followed but Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival remains the first.

For me, it was energising to take one form (the bookstore) and create another (the festival) to have a new life, each sustaining the other. This was logical progression – and a gift to the city on the centenary of the Apeejay Surrendra Group in 2010.

I am taken back to when we first lit the lamp of the Festival at Oxford Bookstore Park Street in January 2010 and I share a picture below

In the morning, well before the formal Festival inauguration at St John’s Anglican Church, I remember being in the midst of hundreds of children at Apeejay Anand Children’s library ; I remember walking with the serpentine Qs under the watchful eyes of the smiling Kolkata Traffic Police
Mallikbazar, Park Street to board the a Kolkata tram painted in the Festival motif and colours to awaiting singing puppeteers. We brought kolkata’s busiest crossing to a standstill for a few minutes..and since that morning in 2010, every year in January the Festival has igniting minds.

Our readers wanted a place to congregate and engage with books, with authors, with publishers and with each other. The idea from the beginning was to create a large, public, entirely non-profit “literary meeting place” and to give voice to writers and artists everywhere, at some of the city’s wonderful heritage sites.  Of the many successful literary initiatives that have emerged from the Oxford Bookstore, I am delighted that the Festival has developed as the fountainhead of the mission we pursue 365 days at our bookstore chain.

Literary Festival-goers want different things, and literary festivals, while superficially very similar, have different priorities. The focus and atmosphere of such events can vary hugely. It can be brilliant simply to see up close the authors whose work you admire and love.

Appearances from Sir Vidia Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and others from years ago, both at the Oxford Bookstore and the AKLF, are still fresh in my mind. Readings by poets, novelists, or comedians and actors who are also writers add value and are appreciated. Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival looks at making Literature and the Arts an enriching proposition and, at the same time, the Festival a mainstream event that helps build brand India, curating around it experiences in food and drinks, retail and festivities as well. Importantly, and above all,  the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival is reflective of the vibrancy and cultural eclectism that is Kolkata. 

Here I am getting ready to host you at AKLF 2019!

The 10th anniversary edition is bringing the celebration to Park Street, the birthplace of Oxford Bookstore nearly a century ago. The three-day literary extravaganza will be hosted in various heritage sites on Park Street. Writers, Poets and Dignitaries from China, Italy, France, Australia, Singapore, USA and UK will be in attendance along with Indian award-winning authors, eminent filmmakers, Politicians and Poets. A must attend lit fest, the only one in India created by a bookstore. You are all Invited. Come – Be with Poets at Poetry Cafe ; Be with children at Oxford Junior Literary Festival ; Meet and hear eminent speakers that include Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer winner for Fiction 2018….Here is the full list of all Festival delegates – http://www.aklf.in/delegates-2019.htm


Download the Event timings and venues in the Full festival Schedule from this link http://www.aklf.in/schedule.htm .

For any last minute queries, write to us at AKLF10years@apeejaygroup.com or corporatecommunications@apeejaygroup.com


I invite you to celebrate 10 Years of Literary Excellence at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2019…from 18-20th January 2019… Join me !

Inviting you all to AKLF2019!


Maina Bhagat is Director, Apeejay Oxford Bookstores and Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival.

3 thoughts on “Why a Bookstore creating a Literature Festival is as Special as it is unique!

  1. Bengal has given many renown writers in the past. This culture seems to lost its vigore due to many causes . I fill this effort can revive golden era of Bengali literature .

    Liked by 1 person

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