Shush goes the book club

Cities like Mum­bai and Delhi are see­ing the rise of a new kind of book club where peo­ple gather at pubs and cafes to read in si­lence

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation -

Imag­ine be­ing at a bar where you are served a glass of red wine along with a book. Or a café where you sam­ple the lat­est Tom Clancy thriller while sip­ping a hot cap­puc­cino. Noth­ing comes be­tween you and the pages for a full hour, not even those of­fice calls that oth­er­wise make you go out of the movie the­atre, leav­ing be­hind a frowning part­ner. Sounds too good to be true? Wel­come to the ‘silent’ book club.

The idea of a silent book club was thought up by two friends, Guin­e­vere de la Mare and Laura Gluhanich, in 2012 in San Francisco, and now has 70 chap­ters world­wide. Its Delhi chap­ter opened two weeks ago with its first meetup at Side­car, a café-cum­bar in Greater Kailash II.

Pub­lish­ing pro­fes­sional Rachna Kalra, who set it up in the city, came across the con­cept in an ar­ti­cle a cou­ple of months ago. “I know enough peo­ple who l ove to read but don’t man­age to take out time, es­pe­cially when they’re home. It could be be­cause t hey’ r e busy with chores, ring­ing door­bells, or other things that they just get caught up with. So I thought I’d give this a shot and see if I could get enough read­ers to­gether on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to lounge, read, and if they feel like, to chat,” she says.

It mostly works like this: mem­bers and en­thu­si­asts come to a café car­ry­ing their own books once every month on a Sun­day. For an hour or two, they read in si­lence while en­joy­ing food and drinks. There’s no pres­sure to in­tel­li­gently dis­cuss the book or read one par­tic­u­lar book as in reg­u­lar clubs, though at­ten­dees are free to dis­cuss and so­cialise.

In this, we see the merg­ing of two tra­di­tions — one an­cient and one mod­ern. In an­cient times, read­ing was never a silent ac­tiv­ity nor pri­vate. Across cul­tures, read­ing aloud and in groups was pretty much stan­dard. In an­cient In­dia, we get ev­i­dence of it in a Sm­riti that pro­hibits a Shu­dra from hear­ing the Vedas, im­ply­ing that these were read aloud. In Eu­rope, a per­son who read in si­lence, go­ing against the norm, was con­sid­ered rude.

But with the com­ing of the print­ing press and news­pa­pers, read­ing be­came an in­creas­ingly pri­vate af­fair. Yet as late as the 19th cen­tury, Euro­peans feared that peopl e who read alone in si­lence, es­pe­cially women, were prone to sexy and dan­ger­ous thoughts. Now with too many dis­trac­tions at home, many book lovers are ex­per­i­ment­ing with read­ing in public spa­ces. Mum­bai res­i­dent Shiva Srikant, who has been at­tend­ing silent read­ing ses­sions or­gan­ised by The Read­ing So­cial for the last three years, says it has re­vived her pas­sion for read­ing. “Due to work pres­sure, and TV and Ne­flix, my read­ing habit took a back­seat. Now, these two hours on Sun­day morn­ing force me to sit and read. It’s an amaz­ing con­cept, es­pe­cially for peo­ple who want to read and not be dis­turbed,” Srikant says. The Read­ing So­cial charges Rs 600 per head, which in­cludes cof­fee and break­fast. Srikant doesn’t mind the money. “The venue and am­bi­ence are great, and the peo­ple who come are sen­si­tive enough to put their phones on silent mode. So we get to read in pin-drop si­lence. Then af­ter the read­ing hours, we get to dis­cuss books and meet new peo­ple.”

San­deep Mal­ho­tra, who co-founded the club with friend Rashmi Barua, says it is not a tra­di­tional book club. “We are here to cel­e­brate the act of col­lec­tive read­ing. Once a month, we or­gan­ise three-hour ses­sions where peo­ple bring their own books. For two hours, peo­ple read in si­lence, and the third hour is for book dis­cus­sion or in­ter­ac­tion,” says Mal­ho­tra. The club tries in­no­va­tive ways of pair­ing par­tic­i­pants, who could be to­tal strangers, for dis­cus­sions at the end of the silent read­ing hours. “We assign num­bers to peo­ple. Say 1-5. Peo­ple who get the same num­bers be­come a pair. We also try to pair fic­tion read­ers with non-fic­tion read­ers,” says Mal­ho­tra, who owns a men­tal health startup called Bet­terly.

Free­lance ed­i­tor Anu­pam Choud­hury, who has at­tended the Delhi chap­ter, feels In­dian cities need to ex­per­i­ment with this con­cept more and ex­pand it fur­ther. “In a city like Delhi where there aren’t many com­mu­nity spa­ces, there could be sheds at say In­dia Gate or Na­tional Mu­seum for peo­ple to read. We will then be a more well-read and well-in­formed na­tion.”

Photo: The Read­ing So­cial

READ­ING ALONE, TO­GETHER: Once a month on a Sun­day, bib­lio­philes bring their own books to a cafe or bar and spend an hour or two read­ing in si­lence while en­joy­ing food and drinks, and then so­cialise

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.