Rolling with the books

'Walking BookFairs'

Rolling with the books

With every small town and rural area Satabdi Mishra and Bahibala Akshaya visited they noticed something that left them unsettled — there were bookstores but they stocked only text books, reference books and guides.

There was no fodder for a person’s intellect, nothing to challenge their thoughts or make them think. cademical sheets were plenty but fiction was lacking.

This gave rise to ‘Walking BookFairs’, a venture the two book enthusiasts started in 2014. “We started ‘Walking BookFairs’ in Koratpur and have visited all 30 districts of Odisha in a van full of books. It’s about taking more books everywhere and encouraging people to read more,” says Satabdi.

Their latest campaign is called ‘Read More India’ where they will cover 10,000 kms, across 20 states, with a collection of over 4,000 books. Satabdi adds that their main aim is to inculcate a reading habit in people, especially those who aren’t used to reading or don’t have access to a variety of books.

“There’s a very small percentage that has access to good books. Most people read popular/commercial Indian writing and nothing else. Our collection includes bestsellers, classics, translations of Indian English authors, world literature and childrens books.”

‘Walking BookFairs’ can be used as a library or to buy books at a 20 per cent discount. “All the books are new. We want to introduce different selections to people,” she says. And they aren’t carrying any regional language books as that can be tricky, what with the inter-state travels.

They started the journey in Odisha and have been to Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and Karnataka so far. Currently, they are driving down to Bengaluru from Mysuru, and will spend two days in the City. Although a venue hasn’t yet been settled, they have already got Bengalureans excited about the visit.

“We will be in the City on 13th and 14th. Our location hasn’t yet been decided as parking in public spaces for a long time is a bit of a challenge,” says Satabdi. They have a route mapped out but are willing to deviate here and there if a booklover calls.

“The Mysuru trip wasn’t pre-planned. Someone called us and offered to let us set up at their cafe. We couldn’t say no,” she elaborates. After Karnataka, the van will head to Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and back to Odisha. On why they aren’t covering the North-East or Jammu and Kashmir, Satabdi adds, “We are travelling with a van full of books so going on rocky or hilly terrain is difficult.”

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