June 25, 2024

Books & Literature

Revolution in hostels, one book at a time

IANS | June 13, 2023 11:04 AM

It was in the year 2016 when student leader Navjot Kaur, who was then studying at Punjabi University, Patiala, started a library in her hostel room with a few books. Slowly, with contributions made entirely by the students, more books were added and their number rose to 800.

Kaur says the library was started not just to encourage reading but also precipitate discussions, encourage students to talk about their political and social beliefs, and push them to understand contemporary realities better. Regular film screenings and book discussions were also held in her room which housed the library.

The same model has now been replicated at Panjab University (PU), Chandigarh. This time, two libraries have been started -- one each at Girls' Hostel number 3 and Boys' Hostel number 5. The one in the girls' hostel is housed in Kaur's room, a member of the Punjab Students Union (Lalkar), who is now doing her Master's in Political Science.

"The response has been excellent. It's a misconception that the young are not reading enough. There is a constant activity in my room, of girls wanting to issue books, " adds Kaur, and smiles that she does not mind the consequent lack of privacy.

Joban, also a post-graduate student at PU, who handles the library at the Boys' hostel, says the response from students has been phenomenal. Adding that books in hostels become a starting point of conversations with students on rational and progressive ideas, he adds that the collection across genres attracts diverse students.

"While stress is on classics, poetry, history, theatre, and politics, there are enough fiction titles too. The effort is not directed towards swaying them to a particular ideology but inculcates the habit of reading."

While initially, they were apprehensive if enough funds could be generated for books, but the union members were pleasantly surprised with the contributions.

"While student life may be synonymous with the paucity of funds, they have been extremely generous. In fact, many people donate books too. Those wanting to just need to contact us or any member of our union."

While the university library offers an excellent selection of titles, the duo insist that the many restrictions and condition of books there is a problem.

In PU too, the union screens films on a weekly basis.

"From the best of international classics to powerful South Indian cinema, we have a wide selection of carefully curated movies. As a union, we are not into organising fests, like many others."

President of PSU (Lalkar), Aman stresses that they are set to expand the existing and add more libraries to other hostels.

"As a student body, it is our responsibility to ensure that students have access to good books and cinema. We also take out a newspaper, " she concludes.

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