The Rangoli Metro Art Centre on MG Road had a small area allotted for an eclectic collection of books on Sunday, as a part of their ‘Gift a Book, exchange a book’ programme. From a collection of Pakistani fiction to popular Kannada stories, the ‘Bayalu’ area had people donating books from their personal libraries for public use. In return for the donated book, another one could be taken for free by any visitor. Apart from this, readers wrote down their thoughts on reading and books on post-its stuck to a stand. The programme was organised to commemorate the birth anniversary of Rashtrakavi Kuvempu, a legend in Kannada literature. “I think it’s really cool. If you’ve read a book lots of times, there is no point keeping it at home, it’s just like junk. This way somebody else gets the chance to read it,” said eleven-year-old Tarannum Qadri, who had come to the event with her parents.
Conceived by Sridhar Gowda, a publisher at Peak Platform, the programme hopes to inculcate the habit of reading in people from all walks of life. “Book trade in the UK is worth 2.5 billion a year. For a country with a population 20 times that, it is much less here because the buying and reading habit is less. Books these days are competing with reality shows for time. We want this to act as a catalyst and have people organise this activity in their communities. Books are important for culture and can be thought of as gifts for occasions like new years, weddings, birthdays,” said Sridhar.
Curious bystanders were drawn to what looked like floating books from a distance, since the books were hung on makeshift stands made out of thin strands of thread. A young girl was elated that the books despite being handed out for free need not be returned after reading.
Curator of the programme Surekha added that the exchange can be looked at as a social gathering.
“There is no need to invest anything to make a creative sharing platform like this. It is an idea you can build on at home too. We want this to be a community sharing activity that will encourage people to share what they have with those who don’t,” she said.
Late afternoon saw a special guest Jnanpith awardee U R Ananthmurthy, who had come to lend his support to the initiative.
“It is hard to find things that are both beautiful and useful. But if you take a book with a beautiful cover, you easily own a work of art that is both beautiful and useful. So I think, this is a great idea to get people to pick up reading,” he said, after signing one of his books displayed at the venue.
In order to make space for more books, especially children’s books, the Centre is planning to schedule a similar programme on January 5.