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Bored of paperbacks? These ‘human libraries’ in Mumbai have their own story to tell

Mumbai city news: The initiative has its roots in Copenhagen, Denmark, where four men held the first-ever human library event in 2000.

mumbai Updated: May 29, 2017 09:16 IST
Madhusree Ghosh
Madhusree Ghosh
Hindustan Times
Mumbai city news,human libraries,Title Waves
Readers listen to stories from people acting as human libraries at Title Waves, Bandra, on Sunday.(Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times)

A new kind of library came to Mumbai on Sunday – a ‘human library’ where people served as books, telling their stories to anyone who stopped by to listen.

The initiative has its roots in Copenhagen, Denmark, where four men held the first-ever human library event in 2000. It has since spread to 70 countries, including India, with all events sanctioned by the four original co-founders.

The idea is to break barriers and start conversations. So, in India, events held in Indore and Hyderabad have featured sex workers, rape victims, divorcees and members of the LGBT community. In keeping with a set of guidelines, each ‘human book’ is taught how to deal with ‘readers’ and address questions.

The Mumbai event, held at the Title Waves bookstore in Bandra, featured 13 living books, including a child molestation survivor, a plus-sized model, a woman journalist and a gay oncologist.

Each was given a title - Miracle Being; Always a Plus, Never a Minus; Eager to Win, Not to Please; Not Under My Watch, etc.

The event was organised by Andaleeb Qureshi, 32, a chemical engineer who it’s came upon the concept online. The ‘books’ approached her through the initiative’s Facebook page, asking to be featured.

“I’m overwhelmed by the response. This is our first event and around 300 readers participated! All our sessions were booked within the first two hours. I’m now planning to organise one every month. We already have 60 books waiting to share their stories,” Qureshi said.

The readers, aged 20 to 60, went throuh the catalogues and borrowed the book of their choice for a conversation session. Each session lasted 20 minutes.

“It took a lot of courage to share my story with strangers. But I really wanted to let people know how I fought against body-shaming and won. I hope my story will inspire other,” said the 34-year-old plus-sized model.

“I’m a voracious reader but this is a new experience for me. It was amazing to be able to talk to a book! My book was the oncologist. His experiences of the prejudices he faces were humbling. I would like to come back for this event again,” said Ranjana Patil, 50, a retired teacher.

Arpan Vadhera, a 23-year-old ad executive, said the ‘books’ had inspired him to be a book and share his story too.

“I met with a Muslim woman and she talked about Muslim stereotypes. The session felt like a amalgamation of reading a book and watching a play. When I read a book it’s just my interpretation. The cool thing about the human library is that it’s interactive, so the author’s interpretation is available to you too,” he said.

First Published: May 29, 2017 08:54 IST