MAHARASHTRA: A VILLAGE OF BOOKS
Inspired by Welsh book haven Hay-onWye and its famous literature festival, Bhilar in Maharashtra will become India’s first (self-declared) book town on May 1. Located near the popular hill station of Panchgani, the ‘Pustakanche Gaon’ invited some 75 artists to paint the walls of 25 buildings, including temples and schools, that will house 10,000 books, one for every person in the village. State education minister
Vinod Tawde explains to Kiran Tare how Bhilar will become a meeting point for authors and readers. Excerpts:
Q. What does it mean to be a village dedicated to books? A. We have selected 25 premises in Bhilar where people can read their favourite books undisturbed. They are not libraries, instead the whole village has been turned into a giant bookstore.
Q. How many books will be available? A. At present, 10,000, mostly in Mara thi. We will add 10 to 15 per cent every year, including books in Hindi, English. Q. Will Bhilar also host literary events and soirees?
A. We will be organising several literary events, including readings and interactions with eminent writers like Vishwas Patil and Kishor Kadam. We are also thinking of inviting students to read out their poems at the village.
Q. Will all this be free ?
A. Yes. Book towns are an international concept, but we are giving it an Indian look and feel. Our goal is to promote the Marathi language and encourage more tourism in this village, known mostly for its strawberries.
Q. What are the gains for the villagers?
A. We are paying them rent in lieu of using their premises as spaces for reading. With the influx of book lovers, they will also be able to market their strawberries, which is the primary product of this village.