Walking BookFairs is the brainchild of Satabdi Mishra and Akshaya Bahibala, who chose to make a habit of reading books accessible to everyone. Their initiative has not only facilitated the accessibility of books for people but also has set out a strong message of emphasizing the importance of reading.
Walking BookFairs is an independent bookstore in India established in 2014. Their bookstores are in Bhubaneswar and Bangalore. They are also India’s only traveling bookstore and have traveled more than 35,000 km across the country, reaching books to thousands of readers.
With Walking BookFairs, Satabdi Mishra and Akshaya Bahibala aim to take books to the remote corners of India. They are trying to make books available to as many people as possible. They believe a progressive society is possible when people have access to books that help them garner knowledge and experiences.
Q. What is the idea behind ‘Walking Bookfairs’?
Satabdi Mishra: It all started in 2014 in the villages of Koraput district of Odisha, India, when Satabdi Mishra and Akshaya Bahibala, the founders of WBF, filled their backpacks with books and walked from village to village to display books on the footpath, at bus stops, under trees, in public spaces for people of rural areas to have access to books, literally birthing the Walking BookFairs. The idea — is to make books accessible for ALL and to spread the love of reading around.
Q. What difference do you see between the present and previous generations regarding reading?
Satabdi Mishra: We still see a considerable gap when it comes to reading. Millions of people from all generations have no access to books because of various systemic factors, including poverty and the caste system. A small section of the Indian society only has access to books.
In rural areas and urban areas, some children have never seen storybooks. Let alone buy one or read one. Only people from the well-to-do privileged sections of society have had some access to books in the larger context. But having failed to engage their children or grandchildren in reading (again due to various factors), the newer generation has lost touch with reading.