Library in the Hills of Uttarakhand
A first for a government high school in the state, the library has not been built through government funds. It is the result of a common dream of Sitaram Dhyani, a retired school teacher, and his nephew Jai Prakash, an old-student of the school and currently professor of chemical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.
Borgaon village is over a hundred kilometres from the nearest railhead at Kotdwar. The pucca road ends about 6 km short of it. The village homes are scattered over a steep 1,500-foot slope. Like many other villages in the hills, its population has been depleted by migration to the plains for employment. There are just seven kids in its primary school. But the villagers are proud to have a high school, which serves several surrounding villages. And now they have a library.
Villagers mill around the reading room and the stacks of books. There is a brand new globe and several registers on the table.
And the there are the books. The collection is breathtaking in its sweep. Shakespeare, Camus, Sholokhov and Dickens (in Hindi) mingle with Premchand, Renu and Parsai. There are over 2,000 books, all bound in red with titles handwritten on the spine. There are ‘useful’ books too – general knowledge yearbooks and guides to various examinations. Usha Binjola, Jai Prakash’s sister has done the selection along with her husband Madan. They stay in Delhi. When Jai Prakash offered to give a donation that would help the village, it was Usha who ran around and collected the books. Teachers from the school sent her a basic list, to which she added her own.
“I wanted the children to be exposed to all the great writers. I know how that can transform one’s life — it happened to me,” says Usha.
The actual construction of the library took over three years. “It was very difficult. There was no road, so transportation of bricks and sand had to be done on donkeys. Costs just kept going up,” says Sitaram Dhyani, who handled the construction part. He has donated a piece of his land for the library.
Villagers can also become members. Mandeep, a small boy but already in 9th class, says that he wants to read storybooks. “We don’t have books at home. My grandfather used to read books but now…,” he says. Sunita has already got her first book issued — Barack Obama’s Audacity of Hope in Hindi. “I have seen him on TV, so I wanted to read his book,” she shyly says. She has to hurry along, as her home is two kilometres away.
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Image Source : VictorLino