I went to the World Book Fair this year with several jholas stashed into my regular bag. Since the cat was away (in this case, the cat is of the bigger variety and answers to the name Spouse), naturally I was to have free reign in bookbuying. Nobody to ask annoying questions: when will you read all these books, you always read the books from the libraries first? Where will you keep them? Why didn’t you get any for me? Have you read all the books you bought last year?

So I bookshopped and bargainhunted; I walked and I cursed my shoes; I got lost several times, found better bargains in the bargain, and fact is, I did more damage to my finances than I’d meant to. I bought several peace offerings for the spouse: ironic, since they were mostly about war. And I also came up with this handy guide you might find helpful if you are going to Pragati Maidan this year (or next year – or the year after).

Take the bus

There are buses which ply from the gates to the halls (where the stores are). Don’t be put off by the rash driving or the loud Bhojpuri music inside. You might be all excited about walking now, when the day is golden and toasty and the first notes of summer have injected in spring a healthy sort of abandon; while you are walking back with gigantic sacks of books, those buses will be your saviours, whether you want to go to the metro station or simply to the exits where you will try to pin down unwilling autowallahs.

Grab the editors

Now this is a secret – and I am quite sure my book-editor friends might stop talking to me after I divulge this – but at the stalls of the big publishers, there are also commissioning editors present. So if you are a young writer (please do not refer to yourself as a ‘budding writer’ if you actually want to be heard by said editors) and you have not been able to scale the high walls of publishing yet, then this might be your best bet to meet a commissioning editor and pitch your idea or even – at a pinch – hand them a spiral-bound manuscript.

Authors on show. Free.

There are these Authors’ Corners set up in the middle of the halls. Rarely are these in corners. But in spite of that little idiosyncrasy, they do have noble intentions. When you near one of these little stages with their cheery seating areas, you may find a harried-looking young creature waylaying you and urging you to attend a panel discussion type thing.

You know what? You should attend one of these sessions. Some wonderful writers come to speak at these – and it will provide a rather nice interlude. (And I am not saying this because last year at the World Book Fair, I had a session when I made the mistake of inviting my brother-in-law, and there were three people in the audience. Including the spouse and the brother-in-law.) All these author sessions are recorded, so next year, you might just find yourself on one of those giant screens asking a question at this year’s session.

Bargains, bargains, bargains

There is a Daryaganj Sunday market element at the Bookfair. There are many stalls run by distributors where, on large tables, there are massive piles of discounted books, all pell mell and spectacular in range. You could find Barbara Trapido jostling with Roald Dahl, John Betjeman with Jane Austen. For a split second I remember my friend M worrying who will buy books from the publishers’ stalls if they get dazzled by these bargains and spend all their money here.

There are different kinds of bargains – superb coffee table books for 200 rupees each, books for 100 apiece, 3 books for 100, and in one hectic stall, 5 books for 100! However, do factor in Murphy’s Laws. If you spend all your money in one shot at one of these places, be rest assured the next bargains table will seem far better in range and value. However, if you are over-cautious and you  keep thinking you’ll get something even better, you may just end the day in bitter recriminations, trying to go to the very stalls you’d visited first and disregarded, as apparently they’d been the very best. So take visiting cards at every place you go and make cryptic notes to self.

Drop some eaves

This is a great place to eavesdrop and overhear conversations. You’ll learn a lot about what people read – Chean Bhagat and E L James – and why. You may not like what you learn but that is a different thing.

It’s like sex

Finally, as all dedicated bibliomaniacs know, bookbuying is a lot like sex. Phenomenally complex and profoundly simple all at once. But patience is key – and a certain willingness to commit to the moment. So exactly at that moment when you feel slightly overwhelmed and feel a silence creeping inside, just remember it is the order of nature – it can go either way from there.

Keep piling on the books you fancy, wait for the silence to flower into something else. Even if just then, inexplicably, the moment seems obtuse and you feel distant from yourself. Wait. Later, much later, after the tide engulfed you and happiness seemed everlasting, you will sleep well. All the books you bought will fade in and out of your dreams, getting mixed up in memories of other books, bought and read and lost and remembered. You will realise, next morning, that details notwithstanding, you bookshopped just right.

Devapriya Roy is the author of The Vague Woman’s Handbook and The Weight Loss Club. Her new book The Heat and Dust Project, co-written with husband Saurav Jha, is the story of an eccentric journey through India on a very very tight budget.