When you already have a well-paying job in a decent company, one tends to just move along. There is very little motivation to step out of the box, the box that’s home to you now, and take a leap.
Meet Akshay and Satabdi, co-owners of Walking Bookfairs! These two creative minds came together for a social cause. Sacrificing their urban comfort, they pledged their time to rejuvenating the love for books in the world. E-books and E-culture and everything ‘E’ is driving libraries and bookstores to their seldom doom. In a time like this, these two brave souls decided to pack up their bags, pick up their books and put them on tour, with their innovative idea of a travelling bookstore in Odisha!
We began our books on wheels in 2014, and the idea was to engage and do something with people through the medium of literature. On our journey, we have been to places where children haven’t even seen a picture book, and only interacted with their school textbooks.
Image Courtesy: The Telegraph
They quit their jobs and decided to travel the country carrying their collection of books for those who don’t have one. This whole affair began one evening when while in Koraput district, they were heartbroken to see school libraries rotting, abandoned. For two bibliophiles this sight was a thing of horror. That was it. They weren’t going to be among those people who crib about the state of things and then go about their day. And so began Walking Bookfairs, their concept of the travelling bookstore. At first they roamed about the streets of Koraput with a backpack of books, displaying them for locals at footpaths or bus-stops. Their initiative exponentially expanded within weeks. The response they got was surprisingly overwhelming. So they bought a second-hand van and toured all through Odisha with books on their backs and passion in their veins.
We had some books with us and we started displaying them in public spaces like on the footpath, in bus stops, under the trees so that the common man can come and have a look at books, browse through it, hold it and get a feel of the book and also if they want, they can buy at a discount.
They allow passers-by to see and touch and feel books at everyday non-intimidating spots. Bus-stops, chai stalls, under a tree, any space which is free, where people can pick books up without feeling obligated to purchase. A space which welcomes readers – new or old. They believe, given a chance, everybody can fall in love with characters that become tangible after a few pages.
We have spaces for restaurants, malls, movie theatres, why not for more public libraries?
In apartment buildings, there are pools, clubs, parlours, but not a community library. We are not giving our children a chance to love books, which can teach them so much more than the 10 course books their world is limited to. We are limiting their horizon to only marks, grades, and ultimately finding a well-paying job.
Image Courtesy: The Telegraph
These two chirpy spirits refused to let the reading culture burn out with their travelling bookstore in Odisha. People are deprived of the joy of reading because of the problem of access. They believe that many cannot buy the books, but they need to have access to them. Books have to be a basic necessity and the physical books cannot disappear in this world of e-books, a digital India. Books need to be more affordable, accessible and given value to.
Their aura itself draws people in, and their love for books is infectious. In an atmosphere like this, who wouldn’t buy a book or two, specially at their prices!
I come here because I get good discounts. There is greenery just in front of the book store and there is ample space to sit and read. -Sidharath Ranjan, a book lover.
Now these two modern day middle-class philanthropists have opened up a small, quirky book shack in Bhubaneswar. A few benches, a lush green garden, and endless supply of tea from a nearby stall, mixed with their fervour keeps the space bustling with not-so-avid readers too! It keeps their tummies salty, and souls toasty.
When asked if they would ever consider doing something else, both responded with a firm “no”.
Promoting book reading is something we believe in. Yes, the money is not much, but we think what we do can help make the world a better place. They (books) carry stories about us, they teach us about us. There’s no bigger joy in life than doing what you want to do.