There is something about seeing a book you worked on in the hands of a curious stranger that validates your work in a way no paycheck ever can. A comforting feeling of accomplishment settles on your chest, and you get this little fluttery urge to chat to them about it - tell them how processing that one image went horribly wrong the first time you did it, or that there almost was a typo on page 24 that you now laugh at but couldn’t believe you overlooked back then, or that you pulled an all-nighter the week before the files went to the printer. You want to tell them there are invisible behind-the-scenes anecdotes in these pages, even as some rational part of your brain is asking you to get a grip on yourself and please let that poor woman go through the book in peace.
That’s why I volunteer wherever DK books are being displayed - no, not to chase away potential customers with poetic malarkey. But to chase that feeling.
And so there I was again, a DK volunteer at the World Book Fair 2017 held in Delhi earlier this year – stacking, shelving, recommending, discussing books. For a bookworm, that’s pretty much a good day in itself, but what made it better was that these were DK books.
DK at Hall 10
DK’s presence at the fair was bigger and better this time around - we displayed a wider selection of titles in two Penguin Random House stalls - a main stall in Hall 10, and a Children’s stall in Hall 14. Hundreds of our books lined multiple shelves, and were displayed on what I call ‘The Table That Shall Stay Sorted for Thirty Seconds Only’.
DK at Hall 14
The footfall for all the days was quite high, and DK books were bought by teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents, students - people from all walks of life. It was interesting to note which books appealed to which faction. There were some who had come over with a clear idea about the books they wanted, others who wanted to browse our collection based on age groups, and still others who had stumbled upon DK by accident and were impressed by the variety of content.
DK’s Table That Shall Stay Sorted for Thirty Seconds Only, Hall 10
All in all, attending the book fair as a DK employee is a learning experience. It brings with it a new perspective on what you do at work every day. You get to observe people going through the content and make mental notes about what they delight in and what makes them shake their heads and put a book back. You get to interact with people who have known and loved DK books for years, and those who were unwillingly dragged here by kids who had to have the Chhota Bheem and Me Journal.
Four hours in, you realise that you conveniently forgot how tiring doing this all day can be, and how you swore that the last time you did this would definitely be the last time you did this. But there isn’t any time to dwell on that, because you see, you’re sort of in the middle of answering a million questions, noting down feedback, handing out bookmarks, getting more books from the stock room, wondering how on earth a book you saw literally two seconds ago can now vanish into thin air and also what in God’s name happened to your life.
People enjoying DK books
But in the midst of this madness, something beautiful happens: you don’t care that you’ve not sat down in what seems like forever, and that you’re hurting in muscles you didn’t even know you had. You don’t care that you have to do this for another four hours, or that you are disconcertingly close to curling into a ball on this very floor while wearing a “Please Nobody Talk to Me” t-shirt.
Because when you see little eyes light up at seeing the sun rising from The Pop-Up, Pull Out Space Book, or when you see grown-up eyes become childlike while perusing The Marvel Encyclopedia; when proud parents ask you for a book for their math-whiz kid, or when two Psychology students are thrilled to have found The Psychology Book; when someone tells you they grew up on DK books and they want their kids to, too, or when you help an old man pick out the perfect board book for his grandchild and get the sincerest thank you in return - it’s all worth it.