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How Boibondhu's open-air book trade festival bonded readers in a February without Boi Mela

  • Published at 02:01 pm March 1st, 2021
Boibondhu's book trade festival at Rabindra Sarobar, Dhanmondi
Boibondhu's book trade festival at Rabindra Sarobar, Dhanmondi. Book-lovers gather at the day-long book exchange event on Friday, Feb 26, 2021 UNB

Boibondhu is now aiming to initiate this festivity in other parts of the country, starting with Chittagong in March

February is known as the month celebrating the love for language, with occasions like the International Mother Language Day and signature events like Amar Ekushey Book Fair. Despite the absence of the fair this year as it has been shifted to March due to the pandemic, a unique day-long event has quenched the thirst of the book-lovers in the city.

Boibondhu, a voluntary organization dedicatedly working to spread the practice of reading among the netizens, organized a day-long book exchange event at the Rabindra Sarobar, Dhanmondi on February 26, which was joined by an unimaginable number of booklovers from morning to dusk.

Describing the special event to UNB, Boibondhu Library Coordinator Moheuddin Toha said that the event exceeded their target of exchanging 1,000 books among the booklovers, which ended up recording over 15,000 books at the event titled "Boibondhur Sathe Boi Binimoy Utsob" (Books Exchange Festival with Boibondhu).

"Our free, open-air book exchange festival at Rabindra Sarobar received an overwhelming response from the book-lovers who brought books from their collections to donate to the number of books on the display at the open ground and in exchange to that, they choose their desired books from the displayed collections," Toha described the festival format to UNB.

"We had a total of 1,800 books reserved in our display at the venue which was available for exchange, and we allotted 10 books each to exchange between each other.

“Our initial target was to record the exchanging of 1,000 books, however, thanks to the unbelievable number of participants at the day-long event which we organized just within a few days, we astonishingly recorded that more than 15,000 books were exchanged," Toha said.

A dynamic team of 75 volunteers ensured health safety guidelines at the unique open-air festival, assisting the crowd with hand-sanitizers and instructions to use face-masks, which almost 80-90% of the crowd properly followed, according to Toha.

They also provided the crowd with tokens which allowed per person to exchange 10 books between each other and recorded the numbers.

Despite being arranged within a considerably short period of planning, the day-long event got publicity over the internet through its similar-titled Facebook event.

"I came to know about the festival from the event and came here with my friends. Although we thought of a minimized number of crowd, it is refreshing to see this huge amount of people here today, for the love of books," Raisa Tabassum, a college student, shared her experience to UNB.

Suzana Afreen Oishee, a student of Viqarunnesa Noon College who came from Jatrabari, said: "I am very excited and happy to see the amusing environment of the book-lovers in this kind of event, arranged for the first time in our country."

Maintaining patience in the large line of people, booklovers joined the festival to hand over their favourite books to other booklovers.

"Though it is hard for me to exchange these beloved books of mine, which I sincerely adored - I have no regret to join this sort of unique activity and the jovial festival. Looking to collect exciting books from others, as well," Abdullah Usama, a student of Northern Medical, told UNB.

Not only the students, but the festival was also joined by many teachers, scholars, and guardians as well.

Laila Arjumand Banu, a lecturer at the Department of Architecture, University of Science and Technology, came to the festival with her daughter and shared her experience to UNB.

"My elder daughter who is a student of Adamjee Cantonment Public School and College and younger daughter who is a student of class five at the Mohammadpur Preparatory School and College got to know about this festival from the Facebook event.

“We had many exchangeable books at our home which they brought here and exchanged with other booklovers,” she said.

Moheuddin Toha told UNB that a small portable box-library was also established at the premises of Rabindra Sarobar during the inauguration ceremony on Friday, which will be there for the regular visitors.

Boibondhu is aiming to set up similar libraries at 33 parks around Dhaka city, he informed.

The voluntary organization has been dedicatedly working to establish libraries across the country, a total of 53 till this reporting, which they started with an aim to spread the love of reading among the netizens since January 2018.

So far, Boibondhu has established several mobile libraries at more than 35 buses in Dhaka city, a hospital at Agargaon, a community library at Kamalapur for a community of transgender, and three saloons in three districts across the country. All these projects are voluntary and funded by volunteers, according to Toha.

With the success of the event that has received an overwhelming participation of people of all ages and all walks of life, Boibondhu is now aiming to initiate this festivity in other parts of the country, starting with Chittagong in March.

"As it was initiated for the first time, we had to face some difficulties in the process. Thanks to the participators, the event has inspired book-lovers in other districts and we are preparing to arrange the festival in Chittagong next month." Toha informed UNB.

E-commerce site Evaly, online book-selling platform Rokomari dot com, private FM radio station Radio Today and television channel DBC partnered with this day-long festival.