Odisha gets its first ‘Human Library’ where readers borrowed people with inspiring stories!

Bhubaneswar: Odisha capital saw a unique event on a cloudy Sunday as the first-ever library where people, touted to be misfits in the society, were given an opportunity to share their experiences, yesterday in a local cafe.

Known as ‘The Human Library’, it had about eight individuals from different walks of life and have faced social stigma and prejudice, yet have overcome the circumstances and survived tough times, who served as ‘human books’. Each such speaker was allocated five to six ‘readers’ for a period of about 20 minutes.

A session in progress at Human Library Bhubaneswar

225 readers joined this storytelling platform to interact with a bisexual who is a survivor of clinical depression, a hearing disabled female entrepreneur, a transgender civil servant, a homosexual who has faced sexual abuse, an acid attack victim, a sufferer of caste discrimination, Padma Shri awardee Italian-born Odissi dancer, victim of human trafficking who is also a former sex worker and a reformed alcoholic for six hours in various time slots. Every human book shared their experiences and stories of the challenges that they had been facing and the journey of endurance.

A session in progress at Human Library Bhubaneswar

One such story is that of a man battling caste discrimination in his village. He dared to put up a tent for his wedding and was ostracized in the process by the villagers of his village because he belongs to the lower strata in the caste system. Similarly, the former sexual worker narrated the incident where her child committed suicide because he could not accept the method by which his mother earned her livelihood.

The atmosphere was poignant where readers were amazed at the spirit of human tenacity, tolerance and resilience. ‘I saw the Sanju biopic and watched Sanjay Dutt struggle with his alcoholism. It is nothing compared to what I am hearing and experiencing today. I am listening to the story of some unknown person who had battled alcoholism and I feel so moved. The incidents and emotions described by this person feel so real,” said Abhishek Mishra, one of the listeners.

The concept of Human Library was started by Ronnie Abergel in Denmark in 2000. India’s first such library was set up in IIM-Indore in November 2016 and later in Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The idea behind this project is to share exceptional human stories that could inspire the society, challenge stereotypes and induce a sense of empathy in the ‘readers’.

Human Library Bhubaneswar volunteeers with the ‘human books’

One of the organisers, Dibyaswarupa Mohanty said that they received an overwhelming response from Bhubaneswarites. “All slots were booked and there were people who stood the duration of slots to hear the stories. We are grateful to the individuals who showed courage and expressed themselves in front of stangers.”

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