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Delhi's World Book Fair comes to town; N.D. Mehra memorial award goes to Ruskin Bond while Picador India bolt the doors on their depleted list of authors.

It's not just publishers who are readying dummy books of manuscripts they think they can sell to foreign publishers at Delhi's World Book Fair. Ambitious first-time writers and those who think they have a book in them (and who doesn't?) are getting set to storm the bastions of world publishing. One such is a former beauty queen-turned-socialite painter who has just bagged a part playing herself in Madhur Bhandarkar's forthcoming film, Page Three. Intent on literary fame, she is taking her book—still, alas, inside her—to the book fair, in the hope of meeting a publisher, or better still, a literary agent, who'll make her both rich and famous. She's not the only one: publishers here say that at every book fair there are a few hopefuls handing out their manuscripts. Understandably, this is a trend publishers don't encourage.

The book fair is also an occasion to announce the winner of a literary prize few have heard of despite it carrying a not unhandsome cash award of Rs 1,51,000 besides a silver plaque. This is the N.D. Mehra memorial award given out annually by the publisher who does an enviable amount of business at the fair: Rupa. This year the award goes to a writer who decided to live on his writing at a time when doing this was a suicidal invitation to let in the wolf: Ruskin Bond. He didn't get it then, but is getting it now for his contribution to children's literature.

Picador publisher Andrew Kidd and Picador India editor Sam Humphreys are among the foreign publishers here for the fair, and also to bolt the doors on their depleted list of authors. The last famous author to have bolted from the Picador stable is Amit Chaudhuri. Chaudhuri, whose book on D.H. Lawrence is receiving rave reviews in the UK, has signed up with Faber. His forthcoming novel is about an indigent music teacher condemned to give lessons to ladies with more ambition than talent.

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