What if you could 'read' people like books? The Human Library has the answer
At the Human Library, you'll find that life stories make for the best page-turners
Ever wondered what it would be to live the life of someone else? A life that's totally different from yours?
What would it be like to be a famous wrestler? Or a model from a very conservative background? What is it like to be an Eskimo?
Whenever you read a book or see a film about the life of someone else, don't you wish you could talk to the person and ask questions that are burning in your mind?
That's how Ronni Abergel, a resident of Denmark came up with a unique idea in 2000: How about we start lending humans as 'books', let them tell their own life stories?
"The point (of the Human Library) is to meet people that you would probably never have the chance to meet in your day-to-day life and challenge stereotypes, stigma and prejudices," Abergel told Evening Standard UK.
He initially started the project to challenge stereotypes that HIV positive people or those suffering from PTSD face. A few of the 'books', like e-books, have their stories available online.
On the Human Library website, an HIV positive woman says about her life,
"Some people think it is dangerous to be near or to touch me. Some people avoid me just to avoid being confronted with the disease. It think nothing bad about them, but it is part of the reason why I kept it a secret for many years. When people are afraid to get close to me, it hurts more than the disease ever did."
Over the last 17 years, the initiative has spread across the world. What would it be like to be a refugee who is uprooted from their country and pushed into another?
The human library will let you 'borrow' a Syrian refugee.
What's it like to have your whole body covered with tattoos? Borrow a 'body modified'.
It's no wonder that the concept caught on in India too. Indore became one of the first cities to host a Human Library event, and Hyderabad followed suit.
The brainchild of Andaleeb Qureshi, the human library in Mumbai works towards the same initiative: to create a personal dialogue between a 'book' and a 'reader' to challenge stereotypes.
Qureshi talks about the how she was inspired by Abergel's model and about how the concept is going to become a pan-India phenomenon: "Human Library is now going to be present in a lot of cities, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad... How I came about doing this is I just happened to come across a picture of a human library in Japan, so I googled it because I was so curious to see what it was and became fascinated by what I saw. I reached out to Ronnie (Abergel), and I was kind of surprised that no one from Mumbai has reached out to him yet, because this is the metro that has so many people from different cities, so many diverse cultures coming together, so we are the ones that need to be talking about it. We need to learn how to not judge each other, how to be open to more life experiences. So that's how the first human library event in Mumbai came about to be."
She says people are really excited with the notion of a human book: "People love the concept. There were so many people who wanted to be human books, but then they are a bit apprehensive about sharing personal information about their lives. Out of 36 people who were really eager to be human books, we had to cut it down to 11 — because though people want to participate, I don't think we have developed the culture of sharing our difficulties and problems yet — that is still a hush hush affair, but I am hoping people will open up."
Mumbai's first ever Human Library will be open for exhibition at the bookstore Tidal Waves in Bandra on 28 May from 3 pm to 7 pm.
Qureshi says this is now going to be a monthly affair, with new 'books' on display every month, and people can pick and choose the life they want to experience.
Here are a few of the books that are going to be on display at the exhibition.
Book Title: Love Dough or Don't?
Summary: This book takes on very 'weighty' issues. The book was told that she needs to lose weight in order to fit in the societal norms of marriage. A man loved her, but he wanted to her to lose weight.
What is it like to be tagged as 'the chubby one?' Here's a peep into the life of a 38-year-old single woman. Filled with dark humor, truths, self reflection, this book looks like a must read!
Book Title: Humorously Yours
Summary: How can a artist ever be taken seriously? Just because you think in abstracts doesn't mean you shouldn't be taken seriously right?
This book chronicles an artist's stuggles to be taken seriously as he tries to navigate his life and profession simultaneously.
Book Title : College Dropout — Degrees Don't Teach Awareness
Summary: A how-to book, on how to balance the passion of being a hip hop artist and a professional mixed martial arts athlete. The book has a guide on how to win a record 8-2-1 score at Muaythai MMA Championship (a mixed martial arts championship) and also make music that you look at the same time.
Book Title:Life is Tough but Sweetheart, I am Tougher
Summary: You have it all — a great marriage, a great practice as a doctor, a great social life — and then one day it falls apart.
The book chronicles the life of the protagonist as she courageously picks up the pieces of her life and moves on, putting her best foot forward.
Book Title: Always A Plus, Never a Minus
Summary: A 30+ overweight, married Muslim woman who is a 'PLUS SIZE MODEL'? A how-to book on defying odds and facing prejudices with your head held high.
Title: Stereotyped Muslim
"Oh you are a Muslim, but I though you are supposed to wear a burqa? Are you allowed to get educated, work? Why do you hate other religions? Why does your religion preach violence? So you all are terrorists? Why do you men marry four times?"
Book Title: NOT a medical error.
Summary: When you are doctor, you help your patients cope with eventualities. But what happens when you are looked at as a medical aberration because of your sexual identity? The book chronicles this struggle
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No tomatoes were harmed in the retelling of this story.
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