If you’re travelling on the Delhi Metro and happen to find a book placed on a platform or somewhere near the maps or metro signs with a small sticker, chances are you have found a book put there by the Shruti and her book fairies, who run a Books On The Delhi Metro not-for-profit initiative aimed at promoting reading while commuting. The initiative functions as a public Library, but on wheels. As a part of global organization, Books on the Move Global, the initiative aims to bring back the joy of reading and sharing.
They do so without any fees or ulterior motive and require only one thing from their reader, that whenever they find a stickered book on the Metro, they should feel free to pick it up and take it home with them. But when they’re done, be sure to put it back on the metro for someone else to enjoy.
We had reached out to Shruti and asked her to share her journey, motivation, how she started out with this idea and how has been the response so far.
Q: What do you aim to achieve with this initiative?
Shruti: Our aim is simple: we want people to get into the habit of reading. And knowing that reading demands a considerable amount of time, what else could be better than reading while commuting!
With this initiative I intend to bring the glory of our literature back. I want to attract Delhi’s attention towards new authors, new stories, and literary initiatives – Using our social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our blog– happening in the city as well as world.
Under the movement Book on the Move, it feels good to be the Indian representative of such a huge campaign. It started with a lot excitement, but now to add to it I feel a lot of responsibility as well. Our other counterparts are doing well in their respective cities and countries. So the onus of bringing the best of this initiative lies on me.
Q: Do you collect the books back? If not, then how do you ensure that the reader returning the book?
S: We do not collect books back. So the person who finds it, they can read it at their leisure. That said, it’s not a freebie or a giveaway. We trust people to follow – ‘Take it, read it, and return for someone else to enjoy’.
Q: How has the response been so far? Also, how do you choose which book is to be placed next?
S: There is a tremendous positive response that we have received from Delhi. We have been well appreciated and we feel motivated to continue this in better ways. And Delhi has been very kind to us. We have got many books in circulation, which means people are picking it up, reading it and becoming source of happiness for others.
The choice of our books is random. But we do not drop books which can hurt religious sentiments or which are politically biased.
Q: Since you have a regular job, how do you find the time to run this project so successfully?
S: Sometimes it gets really tough. It feels like a full-time job, managing the book drops, social media posting, catching up with volunteers. But the excitement keeps us going. So I work during early hours of the day (before office) and late in the night (after office)
Q: How can one become a part of this project?
S: Anyone can join this movement. We need more books, more people to join in. So they can hop in and be our book fairies. They can also contribute their favourite books. We will provide them stickers.
Q: How would you describe your reading habits?
S: I treasure books. I do not like to add the famous bookish adjectives- book-hoarder, bookworm, or book-devourer. I just love books for its stories, for the fictional world it creates. I was not always like this- the habit has grown over a period of time with age.
Q: Now, since you have such a busy schedule, what do you so that you have a chance to keep reading?
S: I always carry a book while commuting. Be it local traveling or outstation, a book shall always accompany me. Otherwise I feel bored. I love to browse through social media in free time, but that eventually becomes boring. Stories, on the other hand, are always interesting.
Q: From where did you have the inspiration for the concept of ‘Book on the Delhi Metro’?
S: From Emma Watson’s famous ‘Mom and me and Mom’ drop on the New York subway. I got to know about this movement – Books on the move global- after I saw this video when she posted on her Instagram account.
So, I got in touch with Books on the move global and spoke to Hollie Fraser for permissions.
Q: What is your vision?
S: I would like to see how the Delhi Metro will look like when we start enjoying our commuting time reading a book. Also, I would want to shatter the preconceived notion of Delhi-ites as ‘freebie-jumpers’.
Q: How is the response from the reading community?
S: Everyone is appreciating and applauding us for this initiative including readers, authors, and publishing houses. They want to help us in any way they can. They have volunteered for book drops and have even offered to share some books from their own shelf. It’s really heart-warming to see such a response.
Q: What has been the response from the book industry?
S: Tremendously encouraging! I was sceptical about involvement of publishing houses, but I have received positive response from them.
Q: How did you go upon acquiring your books and were any of your friends involved initially?
S: Initially, the books were from my own shelf. But as we started getting attention, a lot of friends donated their books.
So, India. Keep Reading. Keep Sharing.