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The Reading Room of Satabdi Mishra (Co-Owner, Walking BookFairs), Bhubaneswar, India

This is a special picture from a trip Satabdi and her team made to Mayurbhanj district in Odisha where they started the first Walking BookFairs Library in Bisoi Government School for children who were working as child labourers. These 116 children have been rescued and rehabilitated by the district administration. They now go to school and all of them love stories. Walking BookFairs helped start a small library for them with a box full of story books and picture books (some of them cannot read yet).

Satabdi Mishra is a mother of a four and half year old. She co-owns and runs independent book shack Walking BookFairs in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India, which mainly involves driving a van-full of books – the Walking BookFairs traveling bookshop – through villages and small towns of Odisha. She wants to spread the joy of reading all around and strongly believes that books are for everyone, including the poorest farmer in the remotest village.
This bibliophile loves good books, good cinema and good tea.

I invited myself into her Reading Room to hear all about the pages she loves, abhors, goes back to over and over again.

You’re currently reading

An Evening in Calcutta – Stories by KA Abbas (Harper Collins India)

Baluta by Daya Pawar, translated by Jerry Pinto (Speaking Tiger Books)

Last book you bought

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk.

I have to confess that it’s been some time since I have bought a book, one of the perks of running a bookshop!

A Book you left unfinished (why, when)

Oh! I do that a lot. Only to re-visit them later.

A Book you’ve wanted to read for years, but haven’t yet

The Diary of a Genius by Salvador Dali.

Three books everyone should read

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.

The Outsider by Albert Camus.

1984 by George Orwell.

We live in strange times. Anybody who has access to books, should absolutely read these three books!

An author you wouldn’t be caught dead reading

I am someone who would read anything in print. But even with all my love for adventures I am yet to read Chetan Bhagat.

A Book that sums up childhood reading years

Oh! Those glorious years! Alistair McLean, O.Henry, PG Wodehouse and some Sidney Sheldon too!

Book(s) you’ve read more than once & would love to read again

‘100 years of Solitude’ is a book I keep reading again and again.

‘Blindness’ by Jose Saramago.

‘Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair’ by Pablo Neruda.

Favorite author(s)

Gabriel García Márquez, Jose Saramago, Fakir Mohan Senapati, Manto, Nagarjun, Pablo Neruda, Haruki Murakami

A fictional character from a book that you most identify with and why

One of the most brilliant characters in a book is Meursault from The Outsider.

When Meursault finally realizes that people’s lives have no grand meaning or importance, and that their actions, their comings and goings, have no effect on the world. This realization is the culmination of all the events of the novel.

The most prized book in your library

A copy of ‘Siddhartha’ from a very special person in my life. This book and the person who gifted me this book have been my anchor.

Your favorite reading spot

The garden at Walking BookFairs. I spend most of my days reading by the lily pond with butterflies, spiders, squirrels and sparrows for company. But I will read anywhere.

If you’d like to participate in this or other Q&A series, holler on Twitter or leave a message below and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!

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An (A)fternoon of Nasal Orgy

Don’t get me wrong. This is not going to be an exposition on an ancient art of instant gratification. I am instead allowing you to peek into the world of a crazed bibliophile.

This ‘attachment’ that I speak of can sometimes transcend the mere appreciation of words and find the subject allowing her sense of smell to explore what lies not between the lines but between the pages.

This is what happened on a muggy afternoon…

The discoveries made were startling, sometimes unexplained and only rarely predictable.

~

Don’t you think its only fair that Pearl S. Buck’s ‘The Good Earth’ smelt of rice.

Or that Orhan Pamuk’s ‘Istanbul’ reminded the smeller (if there ever was one) of a land far away, never visited.

But would anyone think that ‘Dog Years’, that chaotically poetic Gunter Grass work that tells of a world gone mad, could smell pleasant.

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Or that the two part autobiography of a dictator (Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’) could remind one’s nose of fresh flowers on a spring morning.

(and the irony of it all that I should speak of Grass and Hitler almost in the same breath).

What do you think Franz Kafka’s ‘Diaries’ smelt of? Existential angst? Perhaps that is the best and the only way to describe it.

Diaries of Franz Kafka

And how about Somerset Maugham’s ‘Of Human Bondage’? Well, it smelt sweet, something the author could not have imagined, much less intended.

And what happened when one tried to capture the scent of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ or Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’?

Nothing. No fresh flowers, wet earth or English summer. In fact, there was no scent at all!

It was most unusual that the smell from the pages of Hermann Hesse’s ‘Steppenwolf’ took one back to the library in a convent not visited for over fifteen years.

Equally interesting was the discovery that Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’, the unabashed ode to ‘individualism’, actually smells of ashes.

Finally (deciding to leave many others in the wake), it was time to discover what senses Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ would awaken. It most certainly did not remind one of the scent of bitter almonds. Instead, it was an indescribable smell.

One could not relate it to anything…only fitting, for perhaps it smelt of that indescribable feeling…love.

That an afternoon could have been spent thus is proof of the fact that attachment of this nature is only half explored through the eyes and the mind.

There are countless associations waiting to be made by calling into play other senses…

…but it is only possible if you’re inclined enough to disregard modes of ‘normal’ behaviour.

P.S.: In case you haven’t noticed, I’m participating in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Read all about it here: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

We begin today with the letter ‘A’ for Afternoon. Stay tuned, in April and beyond.