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Teen helps save 100-yr-old books

Saturday, 12 January 2013 - 11:21am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

18-yr-old starts book adoption plan to preserve literary gems.

Adopt a book at Mani Bhavan and make the difference — the initiative started by Zahra Vakil, 18, is receiving overwhelming response. Vakil is studying Liberal Arts at Harvard university in the US. She is in the city for her winter break.

In a short time, of the total books which are old and in a fragile condition, 84 were adopted for digitisation and preservation at Gandhi Sangrahalaya library at Mani Bhavan. It is the place where Mahatma Gandhi had stayed at during his time in Mumbai. The library contains around 40,000 books of which 50 are more than 100 years old.

The idea came to Vakil a year ago when she was in Cathedral school, Colaba. As part of her sociology project, she had gone to Mani Bhavan for reference. “I got worried after looking at the condition of these rare books. Most were in a bad shape. So, I floated the idea before the board of Mani Bhavan,” she said, adding that it was promptly accepted by the authority.

“We uploaded this initiative on the library's website. We even made brochures to appeal to the people and expand the initiative. Word of mouth helped us to make more people aware about it,” she said.

“Many people are coming forward to preserve these literary treasures, including renowned designer Aurobind Patel who has designed the brochure. I am very happy that this initiative has got such a good response.”

Explaining the initiative, librarian Ranjan Bahruchi said, “If someone donates Rs5,000, s/he gets acknowledged in the library’s annual report along with a personalised certificate. If a person donates Rs10,000, his/her name will appear in the special register, and if someone donates Rs25,000, s/he will get a personalised bookplate on the adopted book with Gandhiji’s quotations in it.”

Even corporate firms are adopting the books by bearing the cost of preservation. The Oil and Natural Gas Company has paid Mani Bhavan Rs2 lakh and adopted eight books. So far, the initiative has helped Mani Bhavan raise nearly Rs8 lakh.

“Nearly all the books which were in a delicate condition have been adopted, and yet, people are still making inquiries. Mani Bhavan has even stopped accepting money. It has enough funds now. This is the charisma of the Mahatma. Vakil’s idea really worked. We are happy with the people's response; it shows their love for books,” said, Usha Thakker, honorary secretary of Mani Bhavan.

“The digitisation work of all the adopted books is complete. Now, the actual conservation work is going on. It has given to an Odisha-based company that has expertise in book conservation and preservation,” Thakker added.

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