They discreetly drop off books at random vantage points in Mumbai, to re-ignite the love for reading.
While taking a stroll down Marine Drive, Chowpatty or Worli Seaface if you ever come across a book lying on a bench, don’t think twice — just pick it up, read it and pass it on. Once you are done, just thank the book fairies for this random act of sharing the love for reading by placing books in public places.
Book Fairies, an idea by Cordelia Oxley originated in the UK in 2017 and over the last one year has spread its wings worldwide. Kadambari Mehta who looks after the India and Mumbai chapter has dropped off over 600 books and has around 15 fairies in Mumbai. “Our idea is to find innovative ways of sharing books and inculcate the habit of reading in people. We are just providing simple pleasures in life,” says India’s official book fairy.
To be a fairy, all you have to do is order the book fairy stickers, which come in a pack of nine, from Ibelieveinbookfairies.com and stick it on the book you want to give away. Then discreetly drop it off in a public place visible enough to be found and post it on Instagram.
“As soon as I get to know there is a new fairy that has ordered stickers in the city I get in touch with them. They share the information with me and I too further post it on our Instagram,” says Kadambari. The book fairy constantly updates the Instagram page with the latest drops happening around the city keeping the followers in the loop.
Though there is no restriction in terms of choosing a drop-off place or on the kind of book, first it needs to be findable and second it must not be offensive. “We wouldn’t encourage books that push a particular religion. We usually do international fiction or non-fiction and even Indian authors. Everyone does it from his or her personal collection,” she shares.
But if you don’t have the time to personally drop the books, one can donate the books to the fairy and they will take care of the rest. “For most of us, it is a passion project. So it depends how involved you want to be, there is no hardcore requirement to be a part,” she adds.
Recently in a tie-up with Kitab Khana, they dropped books around Fort. And last week the fairies from Mumbai dropped four books at the Marathi Literature Festival in Aurangabad, and so did the Bhopal fairies.
With no fixed frequency for dropping books, many choose weekdays to drop them at bus stops, etc. but Kadambari prefers weekends as the chances of coming across a book is higher. “We end up dropping three-four books in a week, at times 15 and sometimes nothing. Also, if we have a campaign going on, we will have books flowing endlessly,” she smiles.
However, the biggest challenge they face is in the form of establishments, especially cafes that become suspicious with them dropping books. “They think of it as some kind of promotion or marketing strategy. If they don’t get it, we don’t argue,” she rues.
There are several rewarding moments too. One of the most rewarding ones was when while dropping a book as discreetly as possible, Kadambari was recognised. “I was dropping the book at a restaurant. There was this man at the other end who saw me and walked straight up to me and asked, ‘Are you a book fairy? You are doing a great job’, and gave me a high-five,” she laughs.
In another incident, she dropped a Percy Jackson book at Todi Mill Social that was picked by a girl who managed to message her saying, “Thank you. It was the exact book I was looking for and found it on my birthday.’
Children’s books curator and storyteller by profession, Kadambari believes that reading, as a hobby needs to be bought back actively and if we want the next generation to pick it up we need to start now. “Reading as a habit is a lot more refreshing and a lot less stressful. In general with so many other kinds of distractions, I think reading, as a hobby will help in many ways. We are not expecting anything in return, nor do we want major recognition. As long as people find the book, read it and develop the habit of reading we are happy,” she asserts.
Over the next few months as the city readies for flea markets and festive gatherings, keep a watch, as book fairies will be actively swaying their book wand.