Published: 07th July 2018
Do away with your prejudices about people at The Human Library in Bhubaneshwar, courtesy Bhubaneswar Poetry Club
BPC has arranged for an interesting range of human books which will help you chase away all your prejudice
A lot can happen over a conversation; mindsets can change and prejudices can fade away, making way for new perspectives. Be honest, how many times have you looked at people you hardly know with preconceived notions and thought to yourself, 'Oh, why do they have so much attitude?' or 'Why are they so uptight?'. No, we're not singling you out, we all do it. Actually, it would do us all some good if we could just walk up to people (to be less creepy, introduce yourself first!) and talk to them before letting these notions take root in our mind. But what do we do about the notions that have already sprouted poisonous fruit in our mind, especially regarding communities that we don't understand like the LGBTQIA+ and the differently-abled? Well, here is a chance to not only acquaint yourself with different communities but also get to read them like a book at Bhubaneswar's first Human Library event that is being organised by the Bhubaneswar Poetry Club on July 15 at RECESS, near KIIT Square.
The Human Library has taken place before in Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and a few other major cities of India
From Denmark, with love
The Human Library, an initiative by Denmark's Human Library Organization, is a simple concept where each person is interpreted as a 'book'. Here, interested 'readers' can have a two-way conversation with these human books. And bringing this to the capital of Odisha is Bijaya Biswal of Bhubaneswar Poetry Club (BPC). Now, as most of BPC's team is under 25 and the organisation itself is known to conduct various workshops and events, they managed to secure a full scholarship, thus bagging a one year membership for free. This further substantiated their belief in the cause they were taking up. "We have all simply heard stories of caste distinction and discrimination of certain communities, but cocooned in our urban life, we haven't seen it for ourselves, especially the effect it has on a person. We are giving people a chance to familiarise themselves with these unfamiliar communities to better understand them," explains the 23-year-old. So each of the ten books that one can read will be from different communities — gays, bisexuals, acid attack survivors, witch hunt survivors, sexual abuse survivors and more. And all it will take to wipe the slate clean of all pre-formed prejudices is a simple, heart-to-heart conversation.
Conversations at Human Library can help bring about a change in your perspective
Bijaya Biswal, member, BPC
What's their story?
"Right now, what we see around us is a politically-charged climate where people feel the need to declare their love for the nation and their religion. This is the perfect time to remind people about how similar our lives are and that sometimes, our opinions of others are not as well-formed as we think they are," says Biswal. This realisation that conversation indeed is key dawned on her when she, a former introvert, started striking up conversations with strangers on the go. Recalling an incident when she met a working woman who was a victim of domestic abuse, while travelling on the local train, she narrates her first thought, "So much for thinking that an economically independent woman is fairly safe." To help clear such prejudices, with the help of her circle, Biswal found many such people, ten of whom will feature at the Human Library. All these human books, though different, emphasise one common point — everyone has a backstory.
Biswal has also recently started a book club because she feels that there are only a few offline discussions which take place when it comes to books
Biswal really wants the event to resonate with those who are participating and leave a lasting impact instead of just being one of those run-of-the-mill events that people forget about the next day. "More so because the transgender community is at least recognised by the government, but the LGBTQIA+ community has nowhere to go," she says, hoping that this will open people's minds. The response is already overwhelming Biswal as many have shown interest in the event. "We try to explain to the readers that at this library, their responses can be a part of the book and they can help curate the chapters," she says.
The event will be conducted in two phases — from 11 am to 1 pm and then from 2 pm to 5 pm — while each book can be read by four people at a time. And BPC is already planning their next session of the Human Library soon with different themes. But as of now, Biswal and team are gearing up for the first ever installment of this event with the hope that the conversations that ensue will help combat prejudices.
Books to borrow
Here are four of the books that you'll find at Bhubaneswar's Human Library:
For those who are in need
For Tanya, participating in the Human Library is her own way of reaching out to people who are bisexual and/or depressed. "The stigma of people going through this is such that they feel left out. I just want to reach out and help them," says the 23-year-old. Not only is there a taboo in India around this topic, but there is also a phobia. All she hopes from the readers is that they come with an open mind and just listen, without any judgements. All this is not easy for the Jharkhand-born lass as she is an introvert. But that hasn't stopped her from doing this, "because I really want to," she says, adding that, "I was impressed with the idea of the event because something like this rarely happens in India."
Take time, but understand eventually
Ruble Roy Choudhury (name changed), born and brought up in Bhubaneswar, is an extrovert and feels that though the LGBTQIA+ community is doing a lot to achieve their rightful place in the society, there is a constant curiosity about their community, which also faces social prejudice. "Questions about physical intimacy, marriage and parents are quite common," says the 22-year-old, who is a two-time survivor of sexual abuse. And though the mindset of 'blame the victim' is slowly changing, Choudhury feels that people still need time to understand. "Take your time, I have no problem, but try to analyse our situation," he requests. He hopes that the Human Library, which he first heard of from Biswal, helps with this understanding.
Let's talk: A scene from the Human Library event recently held in Hyderabad
Know before you judge
"The thing about disability is that one gets used to it, but in reality, it does wear one down. There is so much misunderstanding about the hearing impaired. I wish to clear these notions and bust myths surrounding us," says A Soumya Rao, who lost her hearing when she was young, but she isn't letting it stop her. Currently, she is working on two start-ups. She also has no apprehension of talking about her limitations, as she says, "I'm challenging myself to be more open and vocal about my struggles. I believe I have a story which can encourage people." She advises, "There are so many underlying truths that people don't care about and it is difficult to understand. Try to understand others before assuming things about them."
Hit, but not fallen
At the age of 16, acid was thrown at Pramodini Roul, primarily affecting her legs, eyes and ears. She even went into a coma for five years! And yet, she is excited to share her experience at the Human Library. "I enjoy answering questions. There are many survivors who are suppressed by society, but I don't feel bad or uncomfortable," shares the 25-year-old. And even today, when you ask her which was the most painful part of her horrific incident, she will not say 'fear of rejection by society', "because girls are rejected for marriage even when a pimple pops on their face. So society is never supportive of girls. What I am truly scared of is hospitals and procedures," she says, adding that she was helped immensely by Saroj Kumar Sahoo and her other friends and is ready to share the whole experience.
For more on their event, click on facebook.com/events/