I found this picture on someone’s Facebook page. And though the debate about book vs e-books will continue, let us accept (at least to ourselves) that each have some benefits. Where books give you something to feel and touch and a beautiful smell to choose the book by, an e-book lets you carry it around easily, store many more books and share a copy without worrying about your friend returning it to you. I haven’t yet finished a single book on any device, but I would not brush it off entirely.
Which brings me to the question, is that why I see hardly anyone reading in Mumbai nowadays? I see middle aged aunties in train reading a novel, I see old grandfathers reading the morning paper, and I see very few young kids reading books while they wait for their bus or at a cafe. Are they reading somewhere else? Are they reading on a different device? Are they reading at all? I am inclined to believe that they are.
But taking these questions forward is a young sibling duo from Mumbai. Sayalee and Aakash Karkare have made a documentary on the reading habits of Bombay people. The film – Books in the Big City – is now available for online viewing and downloading. It features interviews with professors, writers, homemakers, professionals, bibliophiles and even the street book-sellers. It’s a good 39 minute long video and not even for a minute was I bored while watching it.
“Books were an integral part of our lives when we were growing up. The house was littered with books. There was never a time when we weren’t reading. And we wanted to be film makers as well. Plus, no was making the films we wanted to make about the subjects that were close to us. No one seemed to make cultural documentaries or documentaries that celebrated aspects of human life. Books in the Big City allowed us to put together all this and also to investigate what it means to be a reader in Mumbai,” explained Aakash.
The duo shot for three weeks in April 2012 which was mainly the interviews and a week or two later that year, to just gather visuals of booksellers, readers and of the city. Another 6-7 months went in editing. Aakash says they wanted to speak to everyone: writers, readers, authors, sellers which worked in their favour as they had multiple voices but the editing took a look time since they were working with 40 hours of footage.
“It was a political decision in a way that we wanted to tell personal stories and not political ones. Stories we don’t often see in documentary film especially Indian ones.”
Seems like they got that right. One must watch it; if only to smile the heartiest smile when a bookseller says “Suna hai ki internet abhi baandh bhi hone wale hai” (I have heard that internet is now shutting down in the country).
Gems, I tell you.
But what this also made me think is the question whether kids nowadays read at all. What with no libraries in Mumbai and book shops themselves closing down, where are the readers.
And that is where Pushpendra Pandya’s crowdsourced library comes into the picture. Pandya has been collecting books for a year now and he keeps it with him and gives it out for reading to anyone who wants to. Though so far a handful of members have come in. Investments are limited since he doesn’t need to find a library space, nor quit his job to take care of it. Weekends, he goes to collect the books which is now probably reaching the ceiling of his house (this is purely my imagination, but I read it somewhere that he sold off some of his furniture to make room for books.)
So that’s done. What can you do? You can get in touch with Pandya through his Facebook page/ twitter account and let him know if you have spare books that you would want to give away. Let’s not be hoarders always.
P.S. When I met Pandya he said one thing which struck me. He said that it took him time to let go of his books – to share them with others. I am in still in the process. But here is a guy who is turning many of our dreams into reality – by owning a library of a mix bag of books. Kudos!