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Did you find books in the fridge? Yes indeed..check out for yourself.

kalidas haldar and kumkum haldar

Reading books has melted into the shadows of electronic gadgets and online learning. Hardly any person is seen reading a book these days. But the habit of book reading has numerous benefits to its credit. The mind opens up to new possibilities, it strengthens the brain, builds vocabulary, reduces stress, and numerous such benefits to pen. It's high time that we need to inculcate and revive the habit of book-reading in people. This is what a Kolkata couple wanted to highlight. When Kalidas Haldar and Kumkum Haldar saw how children's academic routines are being affected due to the pandemic, they were disturbed. They saw how children are getting stuck to the digital devices staying at home. This is hampering their mental health, growth as well as their effectiveness. In view of this, Kalidas and Kumkum wanted to do something about this. They wanted to inculcate reading habits in people and to achieve this, they have designed a unique plan. Let's know more about the wonderful plan they made in order to spread the goodness of reading. 

A Unique Place To Set Up The Unique Plan: 

Kalidas Haldar is a teacher who was disturbed by the declining reading habits of the people. “I wanted to start something meaningful in such trying times and wondered how it can be done. Children these days spend far too much time hooked to mobile phones and it’s important for them to read and open the window of their minds,” Haldar said. To inculcate reading habits back in them, he decided to do something and his wife joined him to extend her part. Both of them teamed up and thought of a unique plan. They transformed an old fridge into a cabinet, placed books in it, and converted it into a library. This fridge was kept outside a small grocery store. It clicked instantly because instead of housing milk and cold drinks, this fridge in front of the grocery store is housing books!! This grocery store belongs to Tarapad Kanhar and is located across the street at a distance from Haldar's house. It is at the centre and is close to a college, park, and the main bazaar with numerous people going past it every day. "So it was the perfect place to get everyone’s attention,” Haldar said. The Haldar couple thus got the right place and when they approached Kanhar with the proposal, he agreed readily to let them use his space. Thus, near the Satyajit Ray Park in Patuli township, adjacent to the gate of Dinabandhu Andrews Institute of Technology and Management, an old double-door fridge emerged into a bookshelf. “I was looking for something that wouldn’t need much space as well as keep books safe all year round. It’s covered and I don’t have to worry about keeping the books safe in the monsoon. What better way to use a broken fridge.”, said Kalidas.

They transformed an old fridge into a cabinet, placed books in it, and converted it into a library

The One-of-a-kind Library: 

The Haldar couple started their initiative on 21st February 2021 on the occasion of International Language Day. The idea of setting up this library is to help people develop a reading habit and create a book-loving community. This high school teacher has donated most of his English books and spent close to Rs.45,000 for purchasing a huge collection of Bengali books. The couple started with 300 books they had initially and built racks to store them. While the old double-door refrigerator houses nearly 100 books in it, others can be found inside the small shop made of aluminium sheets. Dictionaries, novels, and literary magazines in both English and Bengali are found in the library.

A Unique Place To Set Up The Unique Plan

The collection is indexed with handwritten numbers. The reading rule is quite simple - Interested readers can borrow a book by writing their name, phone number, and date of issue in the diary kept on each rack. The readers can take a book for free and return it after a month. The only request they make to readers is to handle the book with care. Also, anyone can contribute to the library. The couple put up a banner outside the shop that reads, "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body". Another message that is attached to the fridge reads, "A book a month keeps the doctor away". 

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body

“What started with around 300 old books from my own collection, is now nearly 900 and every day we have been receiving more and more,” says the English teacher. After the news about the fridge-bookshelf went viral, Haldar has been getting calls not just from across the city but from different parts of the country. "Many have asked how they too can contribute to the library,” Kalidas said with happiness. To keep the reading habit going and to make it more meaningful and lively, Haldar is organising book reading events and arranging plays involving local children. “I think more people read Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s Pather Panchali after seeing Satyajit Ray’s films. So, I’m trying to do the same, get them inquisitive about the real text before introducing them to the books,” the teacher explained in a media. The plan has really worked out well. People, old and young, started coming to the shop and are picking up books. “If I have managed to even inspire one person to read a book, my mission is accomplished here.”, he opined. 

A Few Pull-backs: 

In the initial days, some people have discouraged the couple and Kanhar too saying that setting up the library for free is not a worthy idea. They said that the books can be stolen. But the three did not pay heed to any of such comments and went on to implement their plan. Haldar says that ever since the starting of the library, things have never gone wrong. “The people who have taken one or two books now approach me to ask if they can donate old books. From religious books given by the elderly to children’s books given by parents of children who no longer need them, the project has now turned,” Haldar gleamed. He said that he hasn't lost a book. If someone fails to return the book after a month, 15 days after the due date, a simple reminder call is made to the borrower. 

Grateful To Everyone Who Helped In The Journey: 

Kalidas Haldar says that all this wouldn't have been possible had he not received support from his family and students. He doesn't forget to thank Kanhar. “I couldn’t have done it without him. Coming from a difficult background, he values education and agreed to my proposal right away,” Haldar said. He added saying, "My son gave me all his saved pocket money to buy new books. My wife personally labelled all the books and attends the library when I can’t. My students have been spreading the word and donating books as well, I’m truly grateful to them all". 

Though the number of people coming into the shop has increased, it isn’t transforming into sales for Kanhar. Still, he is not dejected. “I don’t mind people coming in and looking through the books. If they buy something as well, I’m okay. But I’m really glad everyone is getting an opportunity to read. I didn’t have this chance growing up,” he said. 

In the plan ....

With the success of this small attempt, Haldar is now exploring if this model can be replicated in different locations. “If I receive more books, it might be difficult to keep them all here. Also, I think it’s unfair. I have been thinking that with the help of my students, I can create such libraries in different areas to spread joy and knowledge.”, he said. 

We wish this great initiative goes beyond boundaries and may we see a healthy book-reading community.

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