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When books do the talking

Anila Kurian, DH News Service, Aug 3 2017, 23:20 IST

No matter how well- read you are and how much you know about the world, the connection with people is missing today. That’s why the concept of a human library comes in as a welcome change.

With the city all set to host its first human library event, many Bengalureans are looking forward to it.
“It’s a great way to learn and explore topics you truly want to understand,” points out Aaron Vijayan, a database administrator.

The concept of ‘Human Library’ is an attempt to challenge stereotypes and motivate people to empathise with the storyteller. The worldwide phenomenon has slowly picked up across the country.

So how exactly does this work? Ria Andrews, the founder of ‘Human Library Bengaluru’, explains, “There will be a book, which in this case is the person who has a story to tell, and the reader, which is the listener.”

A ‘book’ is usually a person who has suffered a hard fate and the ‘reader’ can borrow the ‘book’ for about 20 minutes to hear their story. This gives the reader a chance to hear the tales of hardship and survival and ask questions if any.

“Even though our city is a potpourri of many cultures, there is a stigma attached to certain topics. So a well-experienced person will share their story and have a healthy discussion around it,” says Ria.

“I’ve attended one of the events held in Delhi and it was an eye-opening one,” says Aaron. “The ‘books’ are people who you read about on social media which you ‘like’ and probably share on your timeline. With human library, you are given the chance to interact with them directly and connect with them on a personal level. A hardcover book might make you emotional, but it’s nothing like connecting it on a human level,” he adds.

There are a few others who are learning about the concept. Vijith Quadros, a professional, says, “You can easily Google the ‘books’ and learn about them online, but if you hear their story directly, you have a headstart compared to the others. It’ll help you connect with the story better.”

He feels that there are possibilities of things going wrong as well. “There might be comments or experiences that the ‘book’ will share and the ‘reader’ can take it too personally. One’s point of view doesn’t necessarily have to match and not everyone will want to listen to the stories with an open mind,” he explains.

Giving a different opinion on human library is Neeta Raj, a content curator. She says, “I don’t understand this at all; I mean, these are just people sharing their stories. There is nothing ‘library’ about it. A book is something physical, which you hold and read, not listen to. A lecture or TED talk is pretty much the same concept, so why not call them human libraries too? I think people are just lazy to pick up a book and read.” So which book are you going to pick up next – an inanimate one or a live one?

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