Shruti Sharma has always been a devoted Potterhead. Like a true fan, she can’t even remember the number of times she’s read each of the seven Harry Potter books and watched all eight films in the series. Her most-loved Hogwarts character is Hermione Granger, so it goes without saying that Emma Watson is her favourite actress.
One day when Sharma was casually checking her Instagram, she came across a video of Watson hiding books on the New York City Subway. A book lover herself, she was immediately intrigued. Turns out Watson was dropping off copies of Maya Angelou’s Mom & Me & Mom on the subway as part of the Books on the Move Global movement. Books on the Move Global is a worldwide book sharing initiative, encouraging reading habits among people. Its first branch opened in London in 2012 and has quickly expanded to accommodate 20 subsidiaries across 14 countries.
Sharma was instantly inspired and without giving it a second thought, she got in touch with the organisation and sought permission to start the initiative in Delhi. And just like that Books On The Delhi Metro was born.
Getting her engineer husband, Tarun Chauhan, on board, Sharma kicked off with three books— Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle and Cecelia Ahern’s The Year I Met You.
So how does Books On The Delhi Metro work? The couple drops books on the Metro premises and leave hints on their social media channels as to where they have been placed. Anyone who finds the book can take it, read it and when they’re done, pass it on for someone else to enjoy the reading experience. Once they find the book, all they have to do is use the hashtag #BooksontheDelhiMetro to let everyone know that the book has been picked up.
Although it sounds simple, Sharma and Chauhan didn’t have an easy ride. “There were a lot of naysayers in the beginning,” admits Sharma. But this just pushed the duo to work harder to make this novel enterprise succeed.
Another big challenge with the concept was the chance of the books getting lost. In fact, they’ve already lost quite a few. Sharma even believes that some books may have been thrown away while others may have ended up in the second hand book market in Daryaganj. But despite all odds, the couple’s determination have paid off. The initiative has been welcomed by Delhites and they’ve received many accolades for their efforts. “I always had faith that it would work. I knew that were lots of bibliophiles in the city and the success of Books On The Delhi Metro have proved it,” says Sharma.
So far all the books have been taken from Sharma and Chauhan’s own personal collection. Along with popular English titles, they also have many Hindi language books.
With their pet project now growing at a fast pace, they plan to organise book donation drives and are requesting users to make contributions as well. The country has stood up and taken notice of Books On The Delhi Metro and many other places like Bangalore, Mumbai and Jaipur have reached out to Sharma asking her to bring the concept to their respective cities.
The ever resolute Sharma is more than up for the future challenge. “I feel that we can make this initiative work in every city. And we shall make it happen,” she states with unswerving conviction.