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Written by Fatima Alam
The world is a library and every human is a book. Different people with different stories, connected with a thread of human emotions, feelings, motivations and desires. The idea is to connect more humans, create more empathy,” that’s the motto of social group, Human Library. The group conducts monthly events, where people register themselves as a ‘human book’ and narrate their stories to others. They share stories of struggle and inspire each other. Inspired by the movement in Copenhagen that started 18 years ago, Nicki Mansuri, one of the founders in Mumbai, decided to spread the concept. The first Human Library gathering took place in Bandra bookstore, Title Waves, in 2017.
“In a cosmopolitan like Mumbai, people do not know each other. Human Library provides a space to just sit and listen to one another,” says Mansuri. In a year, people have gathered in book stores, cafes, colleges and lounges, from co-working spaces like Bombay Connect in BKC to restaurants like Barrel and Co. in Andheri West. They also conducted events in St Xavier’s College and Jai Hind college. Mansuri says they have amassed a loyal set of 10-15 readers, who attend their monthly events dedicatedly.
The idea is simple. A person can register as a book if he or she wants to narrate a personal story. Anyone can go to their online portal and select if they want to narrate a story or listen to one. On a scheduled meet, usually a Sunday, the group meets and they sit around a ‘human book’ to listen to their story. Priya Dabholkar, 42, has been an active volunteer of this group.
The first time, she registered herself as a book called “Life as a rainbow”, where she narrated her challenges of being a child to divorced parents. She says, “Initially, it takes a lot of courage to open up about your stories to strangers but by the end of these conversations, we become friends,” she says, adding she opened up about her difficulties at a call centre where colleagues mocked her spoken English skills. On May 27, to celebrate their one-year anniversary, the group will hold a day-long session at their very first venue, Title Waves Bookstore, Bandra.