Society

Grant a wish, leave a book behind

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Chennaiites are taking the fairy godmother tradition forward, dropping a good read in every other nook and cranny as a pleasant surprise for fellow book-lovers

If you find an unattended book with a little white-and-green sticker that reads, “#ibelieveinbookfairies”, then you’re lucky: you’ve been visited by a book fairy. Yes, fairies exist, and these particular ones exist among us.

Book fairies visit a number of places and slip a book or two when no one’s watching, hoping an avid reader will discover and cherish the book left behind by them. “If you are the lucky finder, it’s yours to read and pass on,” says Neha Kaura, the official Book Fairy in Chennai.

Famous beginnings

This initiative was made popular by actor Emma Watson (trust Hermione Granger to be part of something like this) in London in March last year, with the Books on the Underground project. She left books in the city’s iconic metro stations and on the tube itself. The idea gained a lot of traction on her Twitter and Instagram, and has since spread to around 100 countries, with enthusiastic readers attempting to spread the joy of reading right in countries as far-flung as New Zealand and United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to the official website, www.ibelieveinbookfairies.com, there are 9,000 people sharing books the world over.

Inspired by this initiative from the actor’s social media, Kaura made her first book drop in Chennai in July last year. Anybody can become a book fairy. “Log on to the website ibelieveinbookfairies.com and order your first set of stickers. These are the stickers we stick on books which we leave around. This is an indication that the book has been left by a book fairy,” she says.

The 22-year-old software developer says that for her first few drops, she collected books from her friends and colleagues, which they wanted to share. “The books don’t necessarily have to be new; as long as they are in a good reading condition,” says Kaura. So far, she has left copies of Dubliners, The Lord of the Rings, Asterix, and books from The Mortal Instruments series.

“As a part of Indie Authors Day, we also dropped a copy of Mango Cheeks, Metal Teeth by Aruna Nambiar,” says Kaura, “I drop books in places which make ideal reading nooks, like cafés, parks and fast food joints, and places that kids frequent. It’s exciting to find a book and start reading.” You can also leave a thoughtful note inside the books, to make it more personal.

Keeping it subtle

The challenge, though, is to be as secretive as possible — that’s part of the the charm of being a book fairy. Kaura is assisted by her friend Prashant Mogali, who travels across the city distributing paperbacks. The community here is just picking up, with a lot of people showing interest. Among Indian cities, Delhi and Bengaluru have thriving Book Fairy communities, along with Chandigarh, Indore, and Mumbai.

“The idea is to motivate people to read books. It is really important in a world where reading is slowly decreasing as a form of entertainment and a means to gain knowledge,” she says and adds, “I like the idea of strangers being connected by a book, and someone else finding it and hopefully having the same experience.”

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 4:52:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/grant-a-wish-leave-a-book-behind/article22443652.ece

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