India Today - - STATES -

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.

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