Our second contact classes for the 2018 batch of Library Educator’s Course (Hindi) began on Independence Day at Bhopal. Being in the library is indeed a sort of independence. And this time the beginning was not with a gathering, formal hellos, games or feedback. We had folk music, plain sheets and colors in hand. Hands moved with the rhythm and sometimes stopped to wonder what was happening. But never really stopped. Collaborative art was our beginning. We glued together our art piece to mark the National Librarian’s Day. Then began the sessions, discussions and conversations.
There was a time though, when we did not talk, but immersed ourselves in just being together in one hall with books. It’s called the reading time. No session. No group work. And no signboards of ‘silence’. Yet a silence fills the room. I love this time. Not because I drop all work and read but because I do not. I cannot take my eyes off people immersed in reading. A smile here, a frown there, some soft whispers about an illustration, some candid telling. It’s all there in the room to observe and absorb.
However, this time we went beyond reading to include writing too. Write out our heart through personal narratives. The idea emerged out of much deliberation and was given wings after I attended an ELI-TISS writing workshop. This time we attempted a mini writing series, spread over 5 days. When we began with mini exercises, we just enjoyed them. We laughed, we heard each other, and we shared.
But we went further to do a heart mapping to understand writing around a personal narrative – the closest to heart. There was a distinct silence in the room as we moved around, reaching out to each participant. There were questions – ‘I am not sure what should I place as the closest? Can I write what I feel? Can I use my native language? I can write about myself?’ It was perhaps hard to move the mind beyond the formats of reports and assignments. Harder perhaps to bring one’s ‘self’ into the writing. Hard to think that this personal narrative could be written or that it exists. As we all sat in the room late evening finding our moments, our narratives the emotions started spilling over. I was unsure if we could hold it all together. In the short contact time, this peak into each other’s lives and discovering the person behind the name was heart-warming.
When the narratives were read and shared on the final day, they were more than an outcome of the exercise. We did not intend more than the immersion. These were people’s stories, in their language, their voice. We laughed, sighed, cried together in that room as we heard these stories and the person reading them. Literature comes from this space, we were reminded. A space which is free and where we meet ourselves. It evokes different responses and it leaves each of us with something. Most importantly it liberates us.
‘किताबें झांकती हैं बंद अलमारी के शीशों से’, read Gulzar in one of his poems. As I re-read it, I wondered if these ‘band almaris’ had been open. If they had been open, has everyone consumed the pleasure of books before the almirahs closed? Will they be open forever?