Bhubaneswar Buzz

Bhubaneswar based Travelling Library concept Walking Bookfairs featured in BBC News

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What is the most amount of books you have carried while travelling?

Whatever your record, it’s unlikely that you have beaten Satabdi Mishra and Akshaya Ravtaray.

The two friends are on an ambitious 10,000 km (6,213 miles) road trip in their minivan, and have taken an eye-popping 4,000 books with them.

They say they are on a “mission” to promote book reading across towns, cities and villages because they believe that “more Indians need to read books”.

‘Tiring journey’

The duo began their journey in early December 2015 from Bhubaneswar in the eastern state of Orissa.

The BBC caught up with them in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh which was the 16th stage of their trip.

It has been an tiring but exhilarating ride for the two, who told the BBC they “achieved what we set out to do”.

They have met hundreds of people, ranging from writers to book lovers to first-time book buyers.

Library on wheels

“We have sold around 2,000 books so far. And we keep getting our stock replenished in big cities,” Ms Mishra says.

But selling books is not their primary goal. They also lend them out, and say their biggest ambition is actually to engage people in conversations about the importance of reading.

“We see so much happening around us, things like intolerance. That mainly happens because people don’t read. Reading books opens your mind and allows you to appreciate different thoughts,” Mr Ravtaray says.

He talks about a school teacher he met “who had only read 15-20 books related to his curriculum in his 20 years of teaching”.

“Now clearly there is a problem. People, teachers, have to read more for their students, much beyond the subjects they teach. We need more libraries than shopping malls, but the reverse is happening,” he says.

Satabdi Mishra and Akshaya Ravtaray
Satabdi Mishra and Akshaya Ravtaray
Satabdi Mishra and Akshaya Ravtaray

Too expensive

Ms Mishra says books have become too expensive, and independent book shops are increasingly closing down.

“The situation is much worse in small towns. We found that many don’t have even a single library,” she says.

“It’s not that people don’t want to read. But books have become inaccessible for many people.”

Mr Ravtaray and Ms Mishra want to change that. Apart from travelling to promote reading, they also run what they call “a simple book store” in Bhubaneswar.

“We give 20-30% discounts throughout the year because our store is simple and we don’t have many expenses. We don’t have air conditioning or even electricity, we use solar power,” Ms Mishra says.

“And we provide a space where people can read all day, without having to pay or buy anything.”

Full Details to the BBC article