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For love of books

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DOGGED A member selling books in the bus
DOGGED A member selling books in the bus

DEEPA GANESH

Chintana Chiguru sells books because they care for their little world

Revolutions always begin on a humble note. This one in the district of Sirsi is no different. "Except for the availability of guides, there wasn't a single book shop in the entire Sirsi district," exclaimed M.G. Hegde, Dr. A.V. Baliga College of Arts and Science, a professor of English in Kumta. "We ensured our children had books to read. But what about the others?" The thought of a society cut off from the wonderful world of books, pushed among others M.G. Hegde, C.R.Shanbhag (social and environmental acitivist), Kiran Bhat (theatre enthusiast), R.S. Hebbar and Vidambari (retired postman) to start Chintana Chiguru in 1994. With the assistance of Kannada Book Authority they were able to open a bookshop in Sirsi, bang next to the bus stand."We looked for books that were affordable and stocked them in our outlet. But not many came despite its proximity to the bus stand," explains M.G. Hegde. They decided to take it to them. And so they had their book releases in bus stands, village fairs and car festivals, with a small introduction on the book's relevance. They got into buses and urged people to buy. Since the books were inexpensive people were willing. In fact, Vidambari has put them on his cycle back and tirelessly driven to all night Yakshagana pandals and cultural programmes in various parts of the district, foisting his books by the side of the puffed rice seller. Once people bonded with books, they graduated to bringing out booklets on social, political and cultural issues. For instance, when the district was torn by communal riots they published "Yenidu, Hindu Rashtra?", when the Dunkel negotiations were happening they brought out "Gatt lokadalli Ramanna" and as part of the 50 years of Indian Independence celebrations, out came "Bharatiya Vimochana Samara" with 300 rare pictures, and "Subash Chandra Bose". So far, Chintana Chiguru has brought out 20 booklets, each of them running into two to three reprints and selling over a lakh copies. Of course, none of them are priced more than Rs. 10. The money generated is directed to Ranga Adhyayana Kendra, the theatre wing of Chintana Chiguru, from where they stage educative street plays. After the play is over, they sell books to all those gathered. They hold exhibitions in schools and colleges of the district, and offer a discount of 10 per cent, thereby encouraging youngsters to buy more books. In the last 12 years, from a no book place the district has morphed into a book lovers' paradise. "What's the new release?" people come asking. This has given the group hope as well as confidence and have plunged into publishing. Their first book, Ullas Hegde's (a biochemist from Kumta who passed away recently) short stories Halavaru Kalaravagala Ooragathe, is on the stands. That's a revolution at its peak, but remains a humble one!


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