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Borrow a human book, shed your biases

Barnana H Sarkar

People gather at the human library to learn the stories of others

Bengaluru has become the third Indian city, after Chennai and Delhi, to have come up with a unique concept: the Human Library. People can borrow a human book and read their stories through their narration. The goal is to challenge prejudices and stereotypes in society.

The first Human Library event in Bengaluru, featuring seven titles, was held on
August 27. People were asked to select any human book they wanted and spend 20-30 minutes with it.

Roshni, an organizer of the Human Library in the city, informed The Observer: “We let regular people come to share their stories, people whom you wouldn’t speak to on a regular basis, extremely ordinary people.” People who come are from different professional backgrounds: Journalists, software engineers, bloggers and professors.

Each participant at the event is given a name such as “Survivor” or “Warrior”; the real name is not revealed.

Participants are put together in a small space for a long time, forcing them to converse. There could be a policeman listening to the hardships of a graffiti artist; a politician interacting with a young activist on social issues; or a football fan hearing a feminist speak about her ideology. The response from the audience has been positive. Jayati, one of the readers, said: “It has given us an opportunity to interact with different people. This experience teaches you how different everyone is, yet how similar we all are.”

There were some who attended the three-hour event only to listen; they didn’t open up. But they later said they were glad to know that there are several people like them, people who have problems similar to theirs.

Deepika Singhania, an organizer, said: “We executed this program because the world could do with a little bit of storytelling and positivity. We don’t have much time for these. So listening to a story and learning how to accept each other is something people can do with.”

The Human Library helps the present cope with itself better. It encourages people to come forward and tell their stories to unknown people. “It’s comforting to know that you’re not the only one,” said one of the readers who chose to remain unnamed.

The Human Library event in Bengaluru is held once every month on rooftops, in gardens, and at performance spaces.

The Human Library, also known as Menneskibiblioteket in Danish, originally developed in Copenhagen. Members of an NGO called Stop the Violence came up with the project at the Roskilde festival in Denmark.

The original event was open for eight hours a day for four days, featuring over 50 titles.