In what can be seen as an ingenious idea, a few people in Hyderabad have come up with a human library in which you can borrow humans. Why would you want to read a book to understand a concept when someone can sit down and explain it to you? The concept is based on the age-old idea of knowledge sharing.
The brainchild of Harshad Fad, a student of mass media and communication at the Annapurna University in Hyderabad, the library has been functioning for less than a month. Fad said, “The first Human Library event in India was held at Indore in 2016 at the IIM Indore campus. Hyderabad is the second city to initiate this project and we are getting ready for our next event on 22nd April.”
The concept of the human library was first introduced in Denmark in the year 2000 when Ronni Abergel, along with his brother and colleagues – all part of a youth movement named Stop the Violence – nurtured this concept. The aim was to utilise “human books” and the human experience. Ever since Australia has become the first country to have a permanent human library.
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So, how does it work?
Fad along with his friends from college organises human library events. The aim of these events is to let people choose from the various categories of human books available. Once you have chosen your book, you get to have an intimate chat with them for 30 minutes. Anybody can be a book, as long as they have interesting experiences and stories to share and fit into the categories provided by Fad.
At their debut in March 2017, 10 human books were available, the number of books are expected to double at the next event. Talking about his favourite books, Fad says that, out of all the books that he has managed to collect so far, “surviving domestic violence and self-loathing narcissists are my favourite human books as they instill courage and deter the strangeness in you”.
Sharing stories can be emotionally overwhelming for the narrators. “After each reading session we ask the human books how they feel and if they are emotionally equipped to share more,” Fad said. In the reading time of 30 minutes, not only can you listen to experiences, but you can also ask questions, making it a thoroughly interactive session.
Sharing his experience, the human book Andy Silveira, an LGBTQ activist who also identifies as gay, said, “Narrating personal stories of my life to random people was a tad unnerving, yet it was also a learning experience of narrating it differently, especially when I was aware that a particular reader stayed back to listen to my story for second time.” He went on to add how his identity serves an additional purpose: “I was aware that I was offering a singular experience as a gay/lesbian lives and giving my readers a peek into the similar as well as different points of view which shape our thought and experience.”
What is most encouraging about the human library is that it allows the readers the space to directly confront their prejudices by choosing a subject they don’t understand. Through listening to the experiences of the books, the reader is able to connect to its subjects in a deeply personal way because these books say a lot more inside than their cover outside. And there is no pin drop silence.