Arts & Culture

The 36th India International Trade Fair, New Delhi: Bidding Farewell for The Last Time.

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As the Trade Fair’s three decades long legacy comes to an end this November, a nostalgic trip down the memory lane invokes several childhood memories.

Come November and Delhi’s cauldron begins to bubble. The city gets decked up with lights on Diwali, ready to embrace the chilly winter with open arms, and stays lit up well past the festival. Headlining concerts, once-in-a-lifetime theatrical performances, live shows with international performers, and most importantly, the India International Trade Fair—all come home to beckon wintertime. And you cannot be a true ‘delhiwalla’ without having some memories of the trade fair.

My ‘birthday week’ (in November) has been synonymous with the smell of dry fruits from Kabul, the touch of smooth Benarasi silk, trying on expensive jewellery made from glinting stones (which we would never buy, of course) and walking for miles till my knees gave up, for almost a decade-and-half now. Back when I still needed to grasp my mother’s hand in a crowd, Pragati Maidan during the trade fair held a special charm. A bone-rattling, tiresome local train ride was our only way to make it to the fair all the way from Faridabad. Nevertheless, it became an yearly ritual.

Those swanky pavillions with items from all around the world became my first introduction to global culture, outside of boring history textbooks. The Book Fair and Trade Fair were seen as two crucial elements of developing a child’s perspective. It was here that a kind “hello” from the Pakistan pavillion or the warmth of a pure Pashmina from Kashmir greeted me cordially and with equal candour. It was here that the humble pani-puri and chaat became distinctly ‘Indian’, now that I had seen the foreigners from all across Europe try them at the UP and West Bengal stall. I could wear my Indian-ness as a badge of honour. And there was no arguing over whose street food took the trophy. For two weeks in a year, everyone was a ‘global citizen’ at Pragati Maidan.

This year, the 36th IITF features South Korea as its partner country and the focus is on its culture and food. Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh are the partner states and therefore the key focus amongst Indian exhibitors. Despite demonetization and the fiasco over cash withdrawal, several stalls are still accepting the old notes and even offering options like PayTM. Ticket prices too have been slashed to attract visitors. The fair, to be held between 14th and 27th November, 2016, will also be the last opportunity to see the old Pragati Maidan building. After the fair, these grand pavillions and many of our memories of childhood will be razed to the ground, giving way to a new state-of-the-art facility which matches the ‘Digital India’ theme. Perhaps it will be for the better. It is, as they say, time to move on. But before that happens, I will get a ticket from the nearest metro station and visit the sights and smells of my childhood again, if only for the last time…


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– Deepannita Misra
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