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Human Library Mumbai offers up people as 'books' who tell personal stories

Imagine a library with books that speak. From the heart.

Mumbai witnessed its very first Human Library event on 28 May, 2017 at the Title Waves bookstore in Bandra. Launched at 3 pm, the venue remained swamped for the next four hours, with eager readers lining up to ‘borrow’ human books. Each ‘book’ could be borrowed by a few readers at a time. The group, including the book and the readers then resigned themselves to their assigned corners at the bookstore for intimate narrations of the stories that the books had to tell. Each narrative session lasted for around 30 minutes.

Human Library has created a space in Mumbai for readers to interact and engage with stories: unrestricted, unafraid and unedited. At the event, individuals put themselves out as ‘books’ available for readers to ‘borrow’. “It’s not about having a scripted conversation; we are trying to keep the conversation as real as possible,” Andaleeb Qureshi, Human Library Mumbai Organiser, told Firstpost.

The ‘human book’ format allows a continuous two-way dialogue between the story and the reader. A reader told Firstpost, “I’m quite interested in reading people, knowing their stories and what I can help them out with or even anything that I can take from them”. The books initiate the interaction with their life-stories and then invite questions from the readers. These stories tend to surround difficult times that the storytellers have been through — largely instances that would invite prejudiced responses in society. According to Andaleeb Qureshi, the platform gives the books “a sort of acceptance in a society which they have never gotten before”.

Questions in the group lead to discussions on aspects from the story that the readers resonate with. It allows the readers to understand the books as people with real experiences, real emotions and real perspectives. “Understanding perspective is very important,” says Sharaf Zaidi, in order to bring about a society that understands. Interactions at Human Library Mumbai have already created the necessary human connection. Mallika, a reader, came out of her first ‘reading’ session with the realisation that “essentially all of us are the same”.

Books at the Human Library are anonymous, identified by the titles that they give themselves. Readers too can choose to maintain their anonymity.

The organisation began in Copenhagen in the year 2000 in an attempt to neutralise prejudice-based violence. According to the founder, if they could “make people sit down” with groups attached to certain stigma, they could be one step closer to diminishing violence. Today, it has extended itself to engendering simple, human connections by opening channels of communication where stereotypes are broken and lives are understood. For Andaleeb Qureshi, “it’s therapeutic and at the same time mind-changing”.

Sunday’s event is the first of many more, promise the organisers of Human Library Mumbai. The events will most likely be held on the last Sunday of each month with a new collection of books every time. “Every person is a story and a storyteller”, says Priyanka Pimpale, a Human Library Volunteer, on who can become a human book.

Tell a story. Listen to a story. Engage with a story. From the heart.

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Updated Date: Jun 13, 2017 11:25:56 IST

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