We live in a day and age where we teach our children to stay away from anything unattended. We look at those things with suspicion. And, with reason.
But what would you do if you found a book in a public place? Would you pick it up? Would you take it home?
As a society, we have become paranoid, and even the kindest of acts garner a jaundiced eye. This disconnect between an individual and the society makes the work of the lovely people behind the Book Fairies movement that much harder. Equally, their work becomes even more important in the current scenario as it has the magical ability to bring back a sense of collective belonging among us.
In this exclusive conversation, The Better India spoke to Kadambari Rushin Mehta, who spends her time being a children’s book curator and storyteller on the one hand and the official Book fairy of India on the other.
How did the idea of The Book Fairies germinate?
Book Fairies is an international movement whose genesis can be traced back to the United Kingdom, where on March 8, 2016, a day also celebrated as International Women’s Day, the founder Cordelia Oxley gave it shape.
Book fairies leave books behind for people to find.
In their own words, it gives books—a new lease of life, and is a lot of fun for everyone involved.
Imagine all the books gathering dust and silverfish in your cupboard. While they are valuable to you, no doubt, the proof of a book is in its reading, and you can help spread joy and keep the wheel of the reading habit moving by becoming a book fairy.
How can one become a book fairy?
According to Kadambari, it is rather easy to become a book fairy. “All one has to do is order the book fairy sticker, which comes in a pack of nine, from Ibelieveinbookfairies.com and stick it on the book you want to give away. Once done, ensure that you discreetly drop it off in a public place visible enough to be found and then post it on Instagram.”
The stickers take about three weeks to arrive from London, after which you can paste them on the books you want to drop off.
“The Indian chapter of The Book Fairies was launched on 8 March, 2017. I ordered my stickers in April 2017, and started making these book drops around the city. I got in touch with Cordelia and in July that year, started handling Mumbai. Eventually, I started managing the book fairies for pan-India in April 2018,” she shares.
For The Book Fairies, maintaining anonymity is of utmost importance. “There have been instances when, if I am in a café, I spot someone picking up a book but generally once the drop is made we move away from that spot,” informs Kadambari.
In Mumbai alone, 500 book drops have been made so far – which means that 500 people have picked up a book and have, hopefully, attempted to read it.
Initially, the Book Fairies in India started dropping off books in Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru. The number of book drops in these cities is higher than the others.
Fiction, non-fiction, regional languages, children’s books—the book fairy dabbles in all genres. The only criteria, adds Kadambari, is to ensure that the books chosen are not offensive to anyone.
From where do the book fairies procure the books?
When the movement started in India, the books came from Kadambari’s own library. Over time, many publishers happily joined the movement and dispatched books.
“We now have the attention of a number of publishing houses, authors and people, who understand what we are trying to do, have come forward to help us,” says Kadambari.
Here are the hideaways where you are likely to find a book
Some of the places where the book fairy is likely to make a drop are public parks, bus stops, cafes, restaurants, public transport, and even public art festivals like the Kala Ghoda festival in Mumbai.
From its first chosen city of Mumbai, the Book Fairy movement in India has now spread to Delhi, Bengaluru, Goa, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Odisha, Bhopal, Pune, Chandigarh, and Amritsar. Each of these places has its Instagram handle, and you could follow them to keep track of the book fairy drive.
Three reasons why the book fairies insist we should read:
1. Opens up a whole new universe
However clichéd it sounds, there is no denying that a person who reads is opening themselves up to a whole new universe and a range of experiences. Regardless of how easily video content is available today, reading continues to hold its own charm and adds a new dimension to one’s personality.
2. Reading helps aid better concentration
With successive research studies proving that the attention span of people is diminishing, there is more reason why we should all reach out to the neglected books in our bookshelves and start reading them. Reading a book improves our concentration by making us focus on the plot. It also helps us relax and immerse ourselves in the world that the writer creates.
3. Great conversation starter
Books are not only a great way to connect with people but also look inward and reflect on various aspects of life. Speaking from her own experience, Kadambari says that the love she has for books has helped her connect with almost 9000 people from across the globe.
Recounting one of the drops she had made, Kadambari says, “I remember I had left a Percy Jackson book at a café. There was a family who picked it up. After a lot of searching, they found my number and sent me a WhatsApp message to thank me. It was apparently the little girl’s birthday, and she was a Percy Jackson reader and was thrilled to have gotten it. These are the moments that truly make us happy.”
She goes on to say, “At the Kala Ghoda festival, I had dropped a book near an art installation, but the security there refused to let the person who had picked up the book, take it. They assumed that the book was a part of the installation.” Happily, once the person had contacted the Instagram handle of the Book Fairies who cleared the matter up with the security, he was able to take the book home.
For Kadambari it has been a very interesting journey being part of this reading revolution, and she hopes that with her flutter of fairies, she would be able to do justice to this international movement.