It’s one of the states with the highest literacy rates in the country, and true to its form, it is now delivering books right to people’s doorsteps.
On April 18, NGO Young Mizo Association (YMA) in Mizoram, started an initiative called the Kawtkai Library (‘kawtkai’ translates to doorstep in Mizo) which brings people a book of their choice
“Every locality has a library in Mizoram,” said B. Lalmalsawma of the YMA, “Ramhlun South, our locality, does too. We realised that people are bored during the lockdown, and what better way to utilise time than reading?”
The process works exactly how a physical library would. “Except you don’t need to go to the library,” said Lalmalsawma. The team clicks pictures of the books, divides them into categories such as biography, Christian literature, English fiction, Mizo novels etc, and posts it to the locality Whatsapp groups. “Anyone interested can pick their choice, and messages us with their name and house number.”
The runners, who are part of the YMA and the Local Level Task Force (LLTF), which were constituted to facilitate smooth work when the lockdown was announced, follow safety guidelines such as social distancing, masks and hand sanitisation during the delivery. The YMA is one of oldest and most powerful NGOS in Mizoram.
Lalmalsawma said that the enthusiastic response is apparent in the fact that fifty books were ordered and delivered within two days of the initiative itself. “A reader can keep a book up to ten days, but we are seeing that they finish in two days itself,” said Lalmalsawma.
Reading initiatives in Mizoram are usually roaring successes. In November 2019, Mizo author and journalist Lalhruaitluanga Chawngte, built a couple of library units called ‘Little Free Libraries’ in his neighbourhood, Mission Vengthlang, in Aizawl. These were bookshelves placed at random — anyone could come pick up a book, read it and then return it. Within days, the initiative got so popular that it was replicated in other localities too. “The main purpose was to promote reading among youths,” said Chawngte, “One reason it works here is the high literacy rate, and moreover, we do have an ingrained sense of reading in Mizoram. Every locality in Mizoram has a library.”
As per the 2011 Census, Mizoram has a literacy rate of 91.33 percent.
Lalmalsawma added that while e-books are popular, there aren’t many e-books available in the Mizo language. “This could be another reason people sitll prefer to read physical books here. Also internet connectivity is not that good in many areas,” he said.
Ramhlun South, where the Kawtkai Library is functioning, has about 1,400 households and the locality library has about 4,500 books. “Many people [from other localities] have been asking about our initiative. It could possibly be repeated in other parts of the state too,” said Lalmalsawma.