It’s the ultimate dream for the intrepid writer-traveller. The Bookwallah, which is the first roving writers festival has begun its Indian chapter with six celebrated authors and an ingenious nomadic library on a 2,000 km journey on the Indian Railways to meet writers, readers, students, and the general public in five cities across south India.
Supported by the Asialink Writing Program, University of Melbourne, the tour is in Mumbai, presently, at Literature Live!, will halt at Goa, join the Bangalore Literature Festival pre-program, move to Chennai, and end its sojourn in Pondicherry. The Bookwallah bandwagon includes poet Sudeep Sen, novelist and critic Chandrahas Choudhury, journalist and fiction writer Annie Zaidi, novelist Michelle De Kretser, young adult author Kirsty Murray, and non-fiction writer Benjamin Law.
The writers are accompanied by unique luggage: a portable, pop-up library. Veteran Indian designer Soumitri Varadarajan and emerging Australian designer Georgia Hutchison have created a series of exquisite custom-made suitcases, that become bookcases, filled with recently published books by Australian authors. Part library, part art installation, visitors can browse, sit and read, or take part in intimate library events. Books from the library will be donated to universities and local libraries along the way.
According to organisers, Nic Low and Catriona Mitchell of the Asialink Writing Program, University of Melbourne, the Bookwallah isn’t a book tour or festival visit but a slower and more challenging experience. The three Australian writers had been to India before, and their recent books have a strong Indian connect. The next step is to invite three Indian writers to travel with Bookwallah through Australia.