KOCHI: On January 2, Akshaya Bahibala and Satabdi M were travelling from Coimbatore to Kochi on their van when they heard of the impending hartal in the state the next day.They were scheduled to organise an open mic and poetry reading session in front of their travelling mobile bookstore/library in Kochi on January 3. Not losing their spirits upon the unprecedented development, they decided to organise the event in the city in the evening of January 2. Despite being preponed, the event attracted like-minded book lovers from around Kochi to the parking space in front of Marigold Creative in Kakkanad.
The sessions were part of the cross-country tour ‘Poems on the Road’ by Walking Bookfairs, an independent bookstore and publisher based in Bhubaneshwar.
“This is a travelling bookstore and library. People can browse, read and even buy the books. We hold open mic and poetry reading sessions wherever we stop. Local people are welcomed to share their thoughts, poetry and stories. The whole idea is to have something that can be shared in a public space and to create a democratic open space where everybody is welcome,” says Satabdi.
At first sight, the mobile bookstore looks like any other van. However, upon closer inspection, it is the paradise of any book lover. It is that moment in Ice Age when Scrat sees his acorn (Aaha!).Founded by Akshaya and Satabdi in 2014, Walking Bookfairs aims to make books more accessible by taking all kinds of books to all kinds of people. As part of their initiative, they have been conducting tours since its inception. “Our first tour was during 2015 and 2016. This is our second cross-country tour. This tour is called ‘Poems on the Road’ because we are taking only poetry books around India,” says Satabdi.
Why only poems? “In India, it is difficult to find bookstores or libraries. We chose to travel with poetry books because you don’t find these in bookstores. No one is going to find 500 poetry books together anywhere else in the country. Furthermore, there are many young people who want to be poets but there are fewer poetry books and they don’t know what kind of poetry has been written.
That has been the idea: To take poetry books to people and give them a chance to browse through and read poetry by classic writers,” says Satabdi.Though the tour is entirely funded by the sale of books in the travelling bookstore, Walking Bookfairs has partnered with HarperCollins India, Pan Macmillan and Speaking Tiger, who are partly supporting the tour in terms of the books.The tour, which started on December 13, will travel to 30 cities across the country. After Kochi, they will go to Goa next.