Social media initiative in Mumbai that helps book lovers share their love for books
On the lines of the popular Humans of New York page, a social media initiative in the city has bibliophiles share the story behind the books that sing to them
"John Green in The Fault in Our Stars says, 'There are some books which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.' The Palace of Illusions is that book for me. Until today, I had never spoken about it to anyone because I wanted it to just be mine. It left me in tears and will always be close to my heart... I'm finally okay with sharing my love for this book because I think everyone deserves some magic in their life and this one brings just that," writes actor Ayesha Kaduskar in her reflection on why the 2008 novel by award-winning writer and poet Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is special to her.
Ayesha Kaduskar. Pics/Thestorytold on Facebook
Her smiling picture with a prized copy of the novel alongside the write-up is among 40 other such deeply personal accounts that book lovers from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Chennai, London and New York have shared on The Story Told. Started a little over a month ago by Shreemayee Das and Rohan Desai, the page already has over 1,300 followers on Instagram and 600- plus followers on Facebook.
"I studied English literature in college and love reading books. When I came to Mumbai in 2015, I couldn't find many people to discuss what I was reading, and that really bothered me," says Das. The 24-year-old from Kolkata, who has recently completed her post-graduate studies in journalism and does stand-up comedy alongside, first turned to the bibliophiles in her friends circle, asking them to send their picture with a tome they treasure and a write-up on what it means to them. "The idea was to have a Humans-of-New-York feel to the page," explains Das, whose initial goal was to be able to post one such picture story every day for 30 days.
The word spread and regular emails from unknown book lovers meant Das's hunt for stories became easier. "While some write-ups were beautifully framed, for others, we had to reach out to the senders to help us with more details," says Das, adding that they refrain from adding plot summaries or character analyses to keep the tone personal.
Rohan Desai and Shreemayee Das
"I chose to talk about The Princess Diaries because the series was a part of my formative years. I liked how its characters have depth and that the female protagonist is funny and kind," shares stand-up comedian Urooj Ashfaq, who also turns to The Story Told to get inspired to finish a book. "When I see other nice, unknown souls read voraciously, I find my motivation," she adds.
For Kaduskar, talking about The Palace of Illusions was cathartic. "When you tell someone what you like about a book and how it makes you feel, you go through the same emotions that you felt when you read that book," she says. Apart from having come across fellow book lovers through her platform, Das has also found relief on another front. "I suffer from depression. So, having that aim of posting one story every day really helps me with my mental health," she shares.
This week onwards, the page has also started featuring what Das calls, #ShelfStory, where contributors share pictures of their bookshelves, and talk about how they built their collection. The founders also plan to start book-themed videos. "Though we would love to have offline meets, or even open mics, where people share these stories in person, for now we are focussing on the digital medium," says Das.
What do initiatives like these mean in times when iconic bookstores are closing down and the reading habit is dying? "Nowadays, when you tell people that you want to start a book club, most of them are not interested because unfortunately, they don't read as much anymore. Libraries, too, are becoming hard to come by," laments Kaduskar. "Digital platforms have a wide reach. I hope the page reaches many people so they realise what a great experience it is to fall in love with books. After all, it is the best kind of love."
Log on to: @thestorytold on Instagram; Facebook.com/thestorytold
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