June 15th 2012.
Kausani, In the Kumaon Himalayas in Uttarakhand, is a small hill station. It is mainly known because Gandhiji once spent a few weeks there and was delighted with the scenery and ambience. There is now a Gandhi Ashram there as well as a Lakshmi Ashram, a residential school for girls. There are also a few schools which the numerous children of the town attend. I spent two months there in September and October 2011 and discovered that there was no good library or book store anywhere in the vicinity. Kausani functions mainly as a tourist resort with a number of hotels but there are enough local residents with growing families who have no easy access to any reading material.
During my stay there, I befriended quite a few children who would come to me and my friends for English lessons, Maths classes and generally to listen to stories. So the thought came to me that here is a place sorely in need of a children’s library. Soon after my return to Bangalore, I happened to meet Ms. Meera, Librarian of Raman Research Institute and a serendipitous result was the possibility of getting a book donation from them. However since the grant is very generous, I felt that a few more learning centres could benefit and I therefore asked my contacts to send me names of groups who are working hard to educate and enrich the lives of those children who need it. At Kausani, we have located a space, part of the Hum Joli outlet, which will partner us in this venture. Again with the serendipitous presence of a young librarian in the vicinity who was game, we arranged for him to orient and enrich Ms. Hema’s natural flair to be a librarian for children.
The happy ending or beginning(!) is that on may 20th, the library was inaugurated with 25 children present. They sang songs and were treated to a short talk on ways to help them be responsible for the good running of the library. In November, I plan to visit and do a few activities to nurture the use of the library.
If this story inspires others to make the plunge to start a library wherever they see a need, I am content!