Reading inside salon: 'Novel' concept by a hairstylist

Reading inside salon: 'Novel' concept by a hairstylist

The tiny room is nothing but a salon with a difference. It has a mini-library and customers get a discount of Rs 30 if they spend more than 30 minutes reading a book from the huge collection. DH Photo

From Abraham Lincoln’s life history to teachings of Dravidian stalwarts E V R Periyar and C N Annadurai – the bookshelves in the tiny room has over 800 collections in Tamil and English.

The tiny room is nothing but a salon with a difference. It has a mini-library and customers get a discount of Rs 30 if they spend more than 30 minutes reading a book from the huge collection.

Welcome to the mini-library at Sushil Kumar Beauty Centre run by a 37-year-old eighth standard dropout in this southern Tamil Nadu port city established to inculcate reading habits among people who flock to the salon and youngsters in the area.

Pon Mariappan, who dropped out of school in 1996 due to poverty, did several jobs for 18 years before turning to the family profession of a hairstylist in 2014. Having taken to reading after he quit school, the father of three launched the mini library at his salon with just 10 books to help his customers spend the waiting time qualitatively.

Five years later, the mini library has 800 books and high-profile visitors in Thoothukudi MP Kanimozhi and top officials from the Directorate of Public Libraries to encourage Pon Mariappan’s efforts in inculcating reading habit among youngsters -- he has set up the mini-library on his own.

“The best part is customers who come to my shop leave behind their mobile phones in their homes. Parents also send their children to my shop so that they can spend some time reading books. There has been a good response so far for the Rs 30 discount against the normal haircut rate of Rs 80,” Mariappan, who runs the salon in Thoothukudi’s Millerpuram, told DH.

Not just books, inspirational quotes by late President A P J Abdul Kalam and his portrait dot the tiny room. Walking down the memory lane, Mariappan said he never had the chance to read when he was a teenager as he had to drop out of school and take up a job to make ends meet.

“But as I grew older, I began reading books. I feel books teach people a lot and they make them richer in terms of knowledge. That is the reason I have been focussing on reading by setting up a mini library at my salon,” Mariappan said, while on his job at his salon.

Asked why he offers a discount to customers who read books, Mariappan said it was his way of marketing his salon and inculcating reading habits. “If you offer a discount, more people will read and my purpose will be achieved,” he said.

Mariappan also maintains a register at his salon in which students are asked to enter their names and one quotable quote from the book they read or any suggestions about the library.

Arockiaraj, a 22-year-old who came to the salon after being recommended by his friend, said Mariappan should be appreciated for the novel initiative. “We tend to spend maximum time on mobile phones and computers. Reading books are actually good. And I got to lay my hands on a book after a long time, thanks to this mini library,” he told DH.

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