Ninety days, 20 states, 10,000 km, one truck, two people and thousands of stories. “Walking Book Fairs, Read More India” is fuelled by a passion for the written word, and the absolute urgent need to take books to small towns, cities, and rural areas, which have no libraries and book shops.
So, Satabadi and Akshaya, who belong to Bhubaneswar in Orissa, and run a small book shop there, decided to take a truck, design it in a way that it can carry as many as 4,000 books, and also storage for more, and a neat space to read.
The two are now taking a road trip across India, with books, to promote reading, and are here in Chandigarh after covering 15 states. They have parked their truck at the Sukhna Lake, and hope to move around the city on Sunday to meet people and feel the pulse of the city.
“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.
Stories open up a whole new world which we don’t see otherwise, nurture imagination and are a true creative extension of human beings,” said Satabadi and Akshaya.
The need for the initiative, they said, emerged from the fact that there’s less space for books in our life and also a lack of proximity with books. The idea was also to liberate books from the confines of libraries and stores, and take them out to the open, in public spaces, pavements, bus stops, to move around, reach out. The tour may have been tough, expensive and exhaustive, but it’s been absolutely rewarding, with Akshaya and Satabadi meeting people who are doing their bit to promote books, and also finding ways to tie up with schools, colleges and other institutions to spread the word.
“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,” said Akshaya.
Their truck has a variety of books, as many as 100 titles in Hindi, with a large collection of books for children, including beautiful picture books, which the two feel many children can enjoy and love, even if they can’t read. To encourage and inspire people to come to their truck, feel, enjoy and be with books, they open it as a library, where people can sit and read books and they have three publishers supporting the cause.
“Many cannot buy the books, but they need to have an 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,” said Akshaya and Satabadi, who plan new activities centered on books at the end of their road trip.