I was wondering what to contribute ever since I came to know about Friends of Likir. And I am glad I took my time when I discovered libraries were to be set up for the children in Ladakh this new year.
There is a quaint, street bookstore near my house right in the midst of Bombay’s chaotic life. It’s a tranquil place I visit whenever I want to buy books. A young man, Jiten Maurya who is from Uttar Pradesh owns this shop that is sandwiched between a regular residential building and a big grocery store. The shop is in fact inside the parking area and all the books rest on shelves and on the floor. He has the most eclectic book collection and also, a street library for old and new books.
I would often miss the kid’s section, which I have lately found out has little story books, beautifully illustrated books of all shapes and sizes because they were of no use to me.
I went back there one evening, sat and sifted through all the kid’s books. I hand-picked all of them because this is a second hand book shop. There were rare story books some of which are no longer published. While choosing them, I put myself in the shoes of young children who had no exposure or source to such delightful books. I wondered what I’d like to read about if I lived in the high altitude mountains of Ladakh ..and then I knew exactly what to pick!
Some of the books in the box: Mr Rabbit and The Lovely Present’ published in 1962 and written by Maurice Sendak, lots of Scholastic books, The Weathervane, Snow White, Kipper, Winnie the Pooh and loads more.
The boy who owns the shop was very kind and helpful, he even asked me “Yeh kiskey liye hain?” I said “ Ek Madam hai joh baccho ko padhatey hain aur woh bohot duur jaaney waley hain. Yeh sab lekar. Toh mera help karo acchey books dhoondney main”. He then sat with me and we wiped all of them clean, erased pencil marks if any and here they are.
When I was done, quite coincidentally I also stumbled upon a book from the classic Mr.Men and Little Miss series by Roger Hargreaves. This one was of ‘Little Miss Helpful’. They make them into t-shirts and pillows these days.
A few days later, I was crossing the street and I hear this familiar voice. It was the bookstore boy calling out to tell me that he’d found 6 more books and his next stock was coming in January. The boy asked, ‘Madam kaisey hai chale gaye Kya Ladakh? I said, ‘Nahi abhi time hai aur Madam tumharey books se bohot khush hai’. Big smile on his face…
Here are some pictures of the place, Jiten and the books. I brought them to Ahmedabad on Christmas Eve.