Panaji: Carnival, the annual Lusophone-inspired festival of wild merriment, came with a literary touch this time round in the state capital.
Along with colourful parades, glittering rouge-lined masks, sizzling open air barbecues, overflowing beer mugs, organisers of the Samba Square, a popular annual carnival affair organised in association with the local municipal corporation, saw a novel experiment called 'Book Stops’ - an installation of a free repository of books in the city’s most popular garden Garcia de Orta.
Those behind the concept claim book enthusiasts are free to take any title from the free book bank home, read it and return the same or even swap it with one of their own, without any supervision or library-like formalities.
Absolutely anyone is free to pick a book and enjoy a read in the garden or even borrow it and return it back when they are done. We don’t register who borrows the book. We simply trust and believe that the borrower will return it back when they are done, says Sujata Noronha, one of the initiators of the project, who runs a popular bookstore in Panaji.
Carnival is symbolic of Goa’s colonial Portuguese legacy and is held every year before the holy season of Lent. Goa was a Portuguese colony for over 450 years before it was liberated by the Indian army in 1961.
The festival, which involves a public celebration in the form of long continuous parades of gaily coloured floats with dancers in masquerade and indulgence in food, drink and general merriment, is led by the portly figure of King Momo, who symbolically opens the festivities.
Hosted in Garcia de Orta garden, Samba Square is a part of the Carnival festivities spread across five days and has a line-up of music, BBQs, children’s entertainment, food and alcohol.
So how do books fit into such a carnal medley? Noronha claims it’s a wonderful way to encourage people to read and enjoy the public spaces that exist in Panaji and that the Book Stop idea will continue even after the Carnival ends.
She said that the experiment was essential considering the fact that schools are not able to provide this foundational skills to all children, disabling reading from the start.
Vijay Hede, managing trustee, Panaji First and former chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industries’ Goa chapter, who has collaborated with the open library idea, said that the seeds of the plan were sown in Prague where he first came across the concept of open libraries.
We have already gathered close to 5000 books which are available at the Central Library in Panaji. Most books are related to popular science and hence of interest to students. We have close to a 1000 books being made available for the Panaji Open Library initiative, Hede said.
According to the Commissioner of the Corporation of the City of Panaji Sanjith Rodrigues, books at the Garcia de Orta would be a nice recreation for a lot of elderly folk who use the garden for their morning walk.
A lot of people come along with their families for a stroll early in the morning and in the evenings. It would be nice for them to enjoy some leisure reading in the garden. This initiative has been launched at the Samba Square this year, he said.