Celebrating books and the joy of reading

Ten thousand kilometres, 90 days, 20 states, two people, one truck and thousands of stories — this is what the Walking BookFairs (WBF), a travelling bookshop which is currently on a road trip across the country to spread the joy of reading, is all about.

The idea was conceptualised by Akshaya Rautaray and Satabdi Mishra, both bibliophiles and travellers, who believe that books are for everyone.

Aimed at promoting reading across India, the ongoing WBF ‘Read More India 2015’ campaign started on December 15, 2015 from Bhubaneswar, Odisha and will end on March 15, 2016 when the duo get back to Odisha after completing their tour.

“We are travelling in a pick-up truck which we have custom made to hold about 4,000 books of all kinds — story books for children of all age groups, classics, world literature, Indian and foreign fiction and non-fiction like poetry, politics, sociology, economics and psychology. The WBF book truck is a free library where everybody can browse and read books at the venue for free, and also a bookshop where booklovers can buy books on a 20 per cent discount,” Rautaray tells Metrolife over email.

The truck, which is carrying books in English (none in regional languages) from across the globe has until now covered d Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Jaipur. It will be in the national capital on February 10 and 11, from where it will proceed to Chandigarh, Dehradun, Meerut and Noida.

Explaining the idea, Mishra says they started WBF (which is an independent bookshop in Bhubaneswar) to take books to more people, everywhere. “There are many places in our country where there are no bookshops or libraries. We, as a society, do not consider reading beyond textbooks important. Parents and teachers do not introduce students to reading for pleasure. As a result we do not encourage critical and independent thinking or imagination. A healthy society is dependent on creating a healthy citizenry which is only possible by introducing school students to various kinds of books at an early stage,”
she says.

She adds that a very small percentage of people in India read books, and their national campaign is an attempt to inspire and encourage more people to read more books (not textbooks). “Also it is an opportunity for thousands of people in various parts of the country, with no access to good books, to browse and read books for free or buy books at a good discount,” she says.

The duo, which is on a celebratory journey of books, writers, bookshops, libraries and ideas, says the response to their initiative has been overwhelming. “We are happy that a bookshop cum free library has created so much buzz. We get many mails, phone calls and messages from people all over the country inviting us over to their part of the world,” they say.

So do they plan to make it a recurring fair? “We have been travelling with books from 2014. We have already travelled in all 30 districts of Odisha in our travelling bookshop and library. And now we are travelling all over India. We hope to continue to spread the joy of reading among people in some form or the other,” says Rautaray.

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