Spinning stories for some kids

A library for the children of a waste picker community in Bengaluru

Updated - February 03, 2018 01:50 pm IST

Published - March 18, 2017 04:57 pm IST

Being busy at Buguri in Bengaluru.

Being busy at Buguri in Bengaluru.

There are images splayed across all the walls of the two rooms that house Buguri, the new community library in Bengaluru. A bunch of bright balloons propel an elephant across fluffy clouds; a world populated by toadstools, cacti, trees and stars emanates from the pages of an open book; giraffes, monkeys, penguins and ants clamber onto the fresh white walls. The piece de resistance, however, is the wall that bears a picture of two children playing with a top. It is symbolic of both the name and sentiment behind the creation of this library.

Buguri, Kannada for spinning top, was named that because, “not only is the name playful and light and easy for a child to relate to but it also symbolises the spinning of thoughts and ideas,” says Lakshmi Karunakaran, who has spearheaded the project. An initiative of Hasiru Dala—a Bengaluru-based organisation for waste pickers and informal waste collectors in the city—the library hopes to bring stories to the children of this community.

“We work with different communities of waste pickers—they do a significant amount of work for the cities but there is no recognition, help or social security easily available for them,” points out Karunakaran, adding that most of these people work really hard to see that their children are educated. However, more often than not, their children end up dropping out and getting sucked into the same cycle their parents were once part of. “There are a lot of children who need help,” she says.

And a library is a brilliant way to organise children and help them learn together. Nalini Shekhar, co-founder of Hasiru Dala, agrees. “It is not just the library but the whole concept of creating a safe space for these children,” she says.

While there are numerous bastis in Bengaluru where these waste pickers congregate, the one at Banashankari was chosen as a pilot for the project, because it was a more settled and well-located space.

“We wanted something that would not disappear in a few months. Since the government has constructed concrete flats for them, the chances of them being evicted are low,” says Karunakaran.

However, finding a space to set up a library was hard. “People did not want to give a place for children from slums,” says Shekhar. Finally, they managed to find a space above an old age home on the fringes on the basti.

On Republic Day this year, a wall-painting event was held that saw a number of children participate in the collaborative project. “They were so possessive about the area they were painting,” laughs Bengaluru-based artist, Poornima Sukumar, who was present on the occasion, adding that they promised her that they would look after the walls and not let anyone dirty it.

This exercise was instrumental in creating a spirit of ownership among the children, says Karunakaran. “The next day, 20 kids landed up, asking for books, and once it started, it just continued,” she says.

Reasons vary

Different children find different reasons to come here, of course. Nine-year-old Bhuwaneshwari, a school dropout, comes because, “she likes books and she likes to read,” while seven-year-old Rajeshwari is lured by the promise of pencils and crayons.

The rules, however, are the same, “Share everything with love—books, thought and friendship,” says Karunakaran, who hopes to expand this concept to other settlements in the city. It is important, she says, especially in slums where children’s world views are often restricted to the street on which they live. “Books really can change you—I was completely shaped by them. Now I want them to bring different worlds to these kids too,” she says.

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