Saturday, 19 January 2013

Readers Paradise

Mumbai is a city where you have to travel long distances and long hours, thanks to horrible traffic and geographic spread of the city. Anyone who has travelled by a train or a bus knows that the best way to kill time during daily commute is to read books. You see so many people with books on a local train that you feel if it were a mobile library! But wouldn’t it be more interesting if you had company, company of people who shared the same love for reading books, and have long talks with them, over a cup of coffee, about your favourite book, author or anything related to books. Well, if you are one of those who yearn to meet such hard core readers then ‘Bound Together Bombay’, founded by Mumbaikars Delnaz and Aarti, is the place for you.

Delnaz, who has lived all her life in Mumbai, has been an avid book reader since childhood. “I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a book club for a few years now,” says Delnaz. Two years ago she had approached Crosswords with the idea, looking to collaborate with them, but they weren’t too keen. Delnaz had almost given up the idea, but then she chanced upon an article on BBC about how a couple in Paris held book club events at bars and cafes. This lead to the creation of her own club called ‘The Open Book Club’. Delnaz bumped into Aarti, who was running her own book club by the name ‘Bound Together’, few months ago. Both shared the same love for books and decided that they should merge their groups, and thus was born ‘Bound Together Bombay’ (BTB).

BTB is a book reading club that meets once every two months at a cafĂ© around town. “We usually meet late on a Sunday afternoon, as people tend to be free at that time,” says Delnaz. Books are selected via voting on the Facebook page of the club. Usually two books are chosen out of the many options provided and the members are divided into two discussion groups according to their choice of book. “The discussion is totally free, people talk about their impression of the book, sometimes people talk about what they didn’t understand and each usually shares their interpretation, etc.,” she says. The discussions are not limited to the pre decided books only; members also discuss other books and literature that they are interested in.

BTB has no membership criteria; you only need to have a keen interest in books and the time spare for a discussion. Members come from a variety of backgrounds and there is also a healthy mix of age groups. “We’ve had people from 13 to 50 join our discussions and everyone brings a different perspective to the group – which is great,” says Aarti. Although people in Mumbai are very much into reading books, most of the reading is inclined towards popular fiction. This is where BTB differs from the crowd, “We are trying to bring together people that enjoy serious, academic literature because that’s the stuff that makes for the best discussions,” says Aarti.

BTB’s journey so far has been fraught with its own unique challenges and moments when all hope was lost. The biggest setback was when Crosswords rejected the idea, “I thought it would be impossible to just do it on my own,” says Delnaz. Even while planning the first event she feared that no one would turn up; but as fate would have it, her inbox was soon full of mails of people telling her how excited they were about the idea. The final turnout was much lower than expected, as 40 people had registered but only 12 showed up, “The discussion, however, was fun and we have built up some dedicated members right from the first event,” she says.

BTB has successfully seen off the challenges it faced; it is not only surviving but flourishing, with an increasing membership base. The journey was indeed tough but was equally rewarding and it taught them valuable lessons too. “There are a lot of gaps and voids in Bombay and if you want to create something new, you are likely to find an audience for it,” says Aarti about their learning from the entire experience. There is a lot to look forward to at Bound Together Bombay and both Aarti and Delnaz are excited about its future. “We would like to keep doing what we’re doing and establish ourselves as a well-known public book club in Bombay,” says Delnaz.

We wonder if books on Mumbai will make it to the table at bound Together Bombay. “I have a love – hate relationship with it. It’s the best and the worst city all at the same time!” says Delnaz. Don’t we all love and hate the city the same time. That’s what’s makes this city so endearing for us and more many others.

So all you people out there who can’t live without books, now you know where to go, right? Just follow the link – here

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