Three weeks ago, Nikhil “Gogol” Ganguli took the Metro from Dwarka, only to go missing. Sherlock Holmes too took the Yellow Line, as did Jasmine Butler, while the witch of Portobello is trying not to be found by the platform supervisor. The books are now boarding the Delhi Metro, with 26-year-old commuter Shruti Sharma’s initiative titled, ‘Books on the Delhi Metro’.
From Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, Cecelia Ahern’s The Year I Met You to The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle — Sharma has been dropping a book every week at either a Delhi Metro station or leaving one behind one on a seat in the train.
“The idea came from Hollywood actor Emma Watson’s initiative of planting books on a subway station in New York, and that’s when I found out about this organisation called Books on the Underground — a movement of placing books on public transportation systems,” says Sharma, who began a similar chapter in Delhi on May 22.
Round stickers on the cover of the book instruct the “picker” to “take this book with you, read it and return it for someone else to enjoy”, and their social media handles. She takes a photo and posts it on the group’s Facebook and Twitter page, with clues for followers, such as “if you know where the Metro museum is…”. When a commuter picked up The Year I Met You, Sharma got tagged on Facebook, and the message read, “What my cousin found on the Metro this morning. Thank you #booksonthedelhimetro for this wonderful initiative. Looking forward to more such reads.”
Sharma has no idea where the first two books are, but she is hopeful. “People can do all sorts of things — it can land in a dustbin or get picked up by someone who won’t return it. I do care about the books but not about the money spent. I believe that if a worthy reader finds a book, they will share it with someone else,” she says.
The books, for now, come from her 100-plus collection at home, and she has a list of friends and strangers willing to donate books from their own private collections. “With time, I’d like to introduce Hindi books too. When I got in touch with Books on the Underground, they said the books shouldn’t hurt religious or political sentiments, so I have to stick to general fiction,” says Sharma, who has written to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, asking for permission.
The not-for-profit initiative also stems from Sharma’s experiences of taking the Metro daily to work. “I want at least one person to keep their phone aside, and read. There are barely any readers on the Metro and maybe that’s because people are lazy about carrying the book. I am giving it to them on the train now,” she says.