Flipping the pages together

Club culture

Flipping the pages together

The dictionary defines a bibliophile as ‘a person who collects or has a great love of books’. So a name like ‘Blissed out Bibliophiles’ is quite self-explanatory. In an age dominated by the social media and apps, a love for reading and discussing books has helped this community of book lovers to not only survive but also thrive.

“Contrary to what most people would expect, I have not been a fan of books since my childhood,” says Shirisha Valluri, the founder of the group. “I started reading only around three years back.”

It was at that time that a friend introduced her to ‘meetup.com’ and Shirisha started checking out the already existing book clubs in the city. “I could find only a few. There was one club which had a rule that the members had to read the book and be prepared for a discussion. I felt that it wasn’t really fair; people have diverse tastes and no one should be made to read something. That’s when I can came up with the concept of a book club where it is not mandatory to read the book or have a knowledge of the genre. It is open for everyone,” she says.

“Those who have read the book can talk about it; it is okay not to have read it also,” agrees Karishma Dinasi, a homemaker. “It is alright even if you are picking up a book for the first time in your life; there are no restrictions here. But you will be automatically motivated to try something new. For example, I don’t read non-fiction. But after hearing people talking about it, I too have decided to give this category a shot,” she adds.

Veena Soujanya, a reading afficionado who has been associated with this group right from the start, says that she came across it quite accidentally while browsing through meetup. “I was quite new to Bengaluru at that time and was looking for people who I could relate to. And there was the usual apprehension about who I could trust and who I couldn’t. So when I saw that this group was started by a woman, I was sure I would feel comfortable. And I have loved being a part of it,” says the homemaker who is also pursuing a Masters in Literature.

For Debpratim De, it was a search for a more enhanced social life that led him to join this club. “And it was an enlightening experience. I met so many different people and got introduced to a variety of genres. Like science fiction; I started exploring it only after joining this club,” he says, adding that the club, which tries to meet every 15 days, has discussed a plethora of genres like mythology, medical mystery, history, travelogues, coffee books and so on.

Sharada V Rao agrees with the fact that joining the club has broadened her horizons. “I have always been interested in reading but I mostly stuck to the suspense and thriller variety. Here, we have a theme for every week and so we are encouraged to read different types of books. Apart from opening up a whole new world of books, this has also given me fresh perspective. I have encountered extraordinary aspects of looking at and reading the same book,” she says.

For Rajat Sharma, the chance to build lasting friendships was one of the best things about the club. “I had a chance to meet people from diverse backgrounds and interact with them, as well as get a taste of offbeat genres in literature. Many people are of my age so it was natural that we formed a bond. Sometimes, we hang out together after the discussion and sometimes even go for dinner.”

Such is the lure of the combination of books and buddies that Ashok Unny travels all the way from Coimbatore to attend these meetups at least once a month. “I like being a part of the group. The meetings are well organised and increase one’s knowledge about lesser-known authors also. Like last time, the genre was medical thrillers. I picked up a few more names other than the usual Robin Cook and I am going to try these books now.”

Ashok goes on to add that he was surprised by the positive response to a book club in tech-savvy Bengaluru. “Reading is a solitary pursuit and frankly, before joining the club, I had no clue that there were so many people in the city who were not just interested in reading but in fact, passionate about it.”

(The club can be contacted at sirisha.valluri@gmail.com)

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