Once she was a journalist. Then she became an officer on special duty with the planning commission. Now, as an author, Gunjan Veda visited Chennai on Saturday to release the book, ‘Beautiful Country: Stories from another India’ that she has co-authored with Syeda Hamid.
In an interview, Ms. Veda talks about her latest project, Indiareads.com, an online library-cum-bookstore.
“Anyone who wants to have access to books has to get it. I should not, not read just because I can’t get a book,” she begins, narrating the story about how the website was launched.
After a brief stint in journalism, she did a master’s degree in international relations with a specialisation in conflict studies. When she wanted to do more than journalism, she moved on to a new job – that of an officer on special duty in the planning commission.
For five years, Ms. Veda travelled the length and breadth of the country, looked at policies on women and children, handicrafts and health and their implementation and consequently suggested recommendations.
“While doing so, I came across children in many cities including Burhanpur or Malegaon who have virtually no access to books. That’s when I realised, books and libraries which are taken for granted in metropolitan cities are not available to several children longing to read them,” she said.
As her work in the planning commission progressed, she sensed that she had fully exploited the scope her job offered and so, she quit her job in 2009. A year later, she launched the website with a couple of others. The site allows people to borrow and buy books online pan India.
“Since there is a government plan of connecting all panchayats through the internet, I thought everyone could order and read books. We deliver books to all towns that are penetrated by courier service. We have hundreds of books in various genres and are expanding constantly,” she said.
After you register with the website, you can either borrow or buy books. To borrow, you need to pay a subscription which may be monthly, six-monthly or annual. And this charge varies from city to city. — for Chennai, the subscription fee inclusive of delivery charges for borrowing two books at a time is Rs. 199 a month.
“You get to retain the book as long as your subscription lasts. We store sufficient copies of a book to ensure that many people can read one book at the same time. It works exactly like any other library, except here, the library comes to your doorstep,” she said.
What’s interesting is that they don’t charge a penny for schools and colleges as they want students to read, read and read more.
“We want children to have optimum use of this facility. After all, words mean the world to me,” she said.