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Soon, a human library!

Wish your books could talk? Well, perhaps now they will be able to, in a sense, as Moumita Pal prepares to launch a human library project in Assagao, this August. NT BUZZ discovers more


Ever read a book and been left with questions that you wish the person or people in the story could answer? Chances are if you absolutely must know the answers, you have connected with the author online to put you out of your misery. But this may not always be successful or may take a lot of time.

But what if you could actually talk to the book and have your curiosity satisfied right there and then? Not the fiction kind of book, but rather those in the non-fiction and self-help genre. Well, you will be able to do just that as Moumita Pal is all set to conduct a human library project from August 2 to August 4 at the launch of her new culture centre Myoho in Assagao.

At this event, people walk into the ‘library’ i.e. the venue, where they are met with different categories of ‘books’, i.e. small groups of people, categorised as per the different personal stories that they each have to share. A person can borrow a ‘book’ for awhile, learn about his or her story and have a conversation before moving on to another section.

“There will be four to five people in each group and we are currently running a poll on social media to figure out which topics people would like to ‘read’ about,” says Pal. Pal is also looking for volunteers who would like to be a part of the event. As of now she has onboard 8 volunteers and has gotten 12 stories. She is aiming for around 60 stories to be available.

“I am also looking at speaking to health centres, prison cells, colleges, mental health centres etc to find people who have stories to share. In this way I can also get a variety,” says Pal.

The first of these events happened in Denmark in 2000, states Pal. Ever since then there have been many chapters cropping up all around. In India itself these events are held in cities like Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. The idea of the event revolves around the concept –don’t judge a book by its cover, says Pal. “What happens at these events is that people talk to each other instead of shutting them out. If you suffer from issues like depression, self-harm etc, it is very difficult to walk into a room and make eye contact with others. But when you go to a library and you learn about someone whose story is similar and who has overcome their shortcoming, you can go talk to that person, get inspired and it will help you overcome your own issues,” she says.

And it’s of course better than just reading about something in a book, she adds. “A printed story will stay the same, but when a story is narrated, it will change each time. Also when you borrow a person at the event you may not want to talk about only the story but may want to know instead what it made them feel etc. No two readers are the same after all,” she says.

All the stories at the upcoming event are also going to be collated into a book, which along with other merchandise will be sold here. She is thus inviting designers, editors, bloggers etc to come onboard her project.

Having previously attended a human library event in Hyderabad herself, Pal admits that the event really proved beneficial to her. “I am very conservative when it comes to sexuality. Although I have friends who are gay, I am personally still conservative about the whole movement,” she reveals. At the event however she borrowed a woman whose story centred on how she had banished her son when he came out, but over a span of three years she gradually changed her attitude and embraced her son again. “After I went back from that event, I began to look at my gay friends very differently. To be able to see them as they really are is very different from what society tells us. The Human Library helped me do that and now I hope to help Goa to overcome prejudices too,” she says. Also, she adds, there are lots of cultures and communities living in Goa, but most of these are active only in their own group. “The whole coming together feeling is what I want to try and build,” she says, further adding that she hopes to have this event every three months.


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