Kolkata: The readers of Kolkata can boast of a new edition to their ever-increasing list of libraries in the city. But the book that the readers might get to read may take many by surprise.
For this library offers no ordinary books but ‘human books’ to answer the reader’s queries. Called, a Human Library, it allows a person to borrow a ‘human book’ for around 25 minutes. The human book is nothing but a fellow human, who is either a survivor, achiever or a representative from the minority community. The borrower within the stipulated time can question them seeking an answer to help them clear misconceptions, prejudice or provide more information for better knowledge or even get inspired by their tales. These books are to be returned to the depot once the reader completes his interaction for the stipulated time.
Kolkata’s first to highlight stereotypes
The first human library to be set up in the City of Joy is looks all set to highlight social stereotypes prevalent in the Bengali community. Speaking to eNewsroom, the Kolkata depot manager Deblina Saha, said, “It is a concept designed to challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. It is a place where real people, marginalised people share their stories. More precisely it is a place where non-conformed questions are expected, appreciated and answered.”
Saha plays an important role in bringing the library to Kolkata. The library is bringing about a social change globally, since 2000. The worldwide movement, which began in Denmark’s Copenhagen, has been replicated in various part of the world.
How it works?
The human books are volunteers belonging to various walks of the life, who have faced discrimination based on race, religion, sexual preference, class, gender identity, sex, age, life style choices, disability and other aspects of their life. The human library provides an opportunity to share and understand the experience of another human being in a community.
“It is a concept designed to challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. It is a place where real people, marginalised people share their stories. More precisely it is a place where non-conformed questions are expected, appreciated and answered,” said Saha, the organiser.
Thrilled about the concept of a human library, Saha applied for its licence. “When I read about it, I thought that something like this must happen to my city. So, I applied to its Denmark office for the licence in the first quarter of 2017, but was rejected then,” said the 27-year-old lady, who is a post graduate in Sociology from Jadavpur University. However, the rejection didn’t make her lose hope. She applied again and finally got the approval in September 2018.
On being asked if her being a student of Sociology had inspired her in any way to get associated with this movement, she didn’t deny the link. “Being a student of Sociology, these things bother me. This unequal treatment, these social taboos, prejudices do have an impact. Unless and until these prejudices, these stereotypes are dispelled, our society will not evolve. I aspire to have a better future for those who belongs to the marginalised sections of our society,” said Saha.
At present the human books are being screened through the organiser’s personal contact. “We do not have that man power to verify the stories individually so we are relying on personal contacts. Around 18 human books will be sharing their stories covering14 topics which have a deep social relevance. Books would include a survivor of child sexual abuse, domestic violence, sex worker, queer community, HIV positive, solo female traveller to name a few. We would be revealing all the topics by the mid of December,” she revealed.
“Human library is a novel attempt where one is interacting with a living book. Conversations with resource persons enable one to know more or rethink accepted ideas like a survivor of sexual abuse can break our assumed notions of safety in trusted relationships,” said Piyali Sur, Associate Professor of Sociology, Jadavpur University.
Perhaps that has, Aparajita Dutta, geared up as one of the prospective readers, needless to say, the girl is very excited about the whole affair. “I have read about it and felt such interactions are a must to shed our judgemental attitudes towards people who are marginalised. Am looking forward to it,” said the second year English (hons) student of Lady Brabourne College.
Scheduled to be hosted at Rabindra Tirtha, New Town on January 6, the library will open its door to the visitors between 12 to 3:45pm.