WAYANAD: Thanks to KP Radhamani, a 64-year-old ‘walking librarian’ based in Mothakkara in Vellamunda, scores of women preparing for competitive tests in the region have been able to get books at Rs 5 per month. She has been distributing books to women and the elderly since 2012. Braving the hilly terrain, she walks around four kilometres daily carrying a basket of books. But these days, she is just that bit careful because of the pandemic, and has cut down her ‘coverage’ by half.
Radhamani took up the task after the Kerala State Library Council’s initiative to encourage women to read by taking books to their homes drew her attention. She began under the Vanitha Vayana Paddhati (Women’s Reading Project) which has evolved into the Vanitha Vayojana Pusthaka Vitharana Paddhati (Book Distribution Project for Women and Elderly).
Originally belonging to Vazhoor in Kottayam, her parents had migrated to Wayanad back in 1979 as the family wanted to lead a life devoted to agriculture. On Saturday, Radhamani was confined to her home as a few people in the neighbourhood who had gone for election-related work were diagnosed Covid positive. “I take 25–50 Malayalam books, ranging from novels and travelogues to competitive text books and children’s literature, from the Prathibha Library and give them to members. The life-long membership comes at Rs 25, and for a monthly fee of Rs 5, people can read any number of books,” she says.
Now, women and the aged have started asking her for books written by Benyamin and other top Malayalam writers. Ever since Covid-19 hit the state, the interest in reading among women and children has increased manifold, says Radhamani. She says some readers ask her to keep books in the neighbourhood, showing that their reading has evolved for the better during these difficult times.
K S Akshaya, a young mother preparing for various competitive examinations, says that when most academic books are priced Rs 300 and above, the walking librarian’s books are a blessing.“These days, I am taking only competitive books for myself and story books for my toddler son, Arnav Krishna. I read out stories to him. I just have to inform Radhamani aunty and she delivers the books that I require,” says Akshaya.
Radhamani -- who has studied only till Class X -- has become a voracious reader herself. She also works with the Haritha Karma Sena collecting plastics for recycling. On some days, she dons the role of a tourist guide too. Her husband, Padmanabhan Nambiar, runs a small shop while their son, K P Rejilesh, is an autorickshaw driver.