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Inspiring Youth, Let this be the trend

Malavika Krishna, IIK Young Reporter
Saturday, February 1, 2020

Inspiring Youth, Let this be the trend

Technology explosion is what the present generation is experiencing where almost everything is getting replaced by artificial intelligence. Gadgets has become almost an inevitable part of daily life, be it for communication, information or pastime. Reading books is no different. But have you ever tried to enjoy the smell of a book, or the crispy sound when you turn a page; it’s so refreshing. No e-book can give the same pleasure as a printed one. Today on IIK we have someone who shares a similar thought, Arpita Rattan, a 16 year old student of New English School. She is accompanied by Mr. Saket Jajoo. Arpita is studying Maths and Biology as A-level, and Physics and Chemistry as an AS-Level at the same time she loves Literature and Art. Let us know her more through her own words.

IIK: Welcome Arpita to Indiansinkuwait.com

Arpita: Thank You. It’s my pleasure to be here to share my experience.

IIK: shareyourbook.org, that is one thing which made you and me connected now. Tell us more of it.

Arpita: Exactly, shareyourbook.org connects people, but through books. In Kuwait I had always felt a struggle in getting books to read. The source which I found personally was at a leading book store in Kuwait, which was quite overpriced, and the school library which was also limited. Plus, overseas shopping, which was exceedingly difficult to do. At school I borrow books from my friends, but not everyone would have a complete series. Moreover, Kuwait does censor some of the books that we like. So, I thought, we have such a diverse collection of books within homes in Kuwait, why not share all of this. We can save money and spread the love of reading. I wanted to make a community to share the books and this just would make it a lot easier to find books. Shareyourbook.org is about bringing together a community of readers. Members can meet at some public joint to share books and there begins a friendship. Book friends are really hard to find in Kuwait and sharing common interests with books is a blessing. If I meet a new friend and get to know that he/she loves reading books, then we could talk hours about it. In this website, you are actually connecting with people having similar interests.

IIK: What was the spark that made you come up with such a unique and different initiation?

Arpita: For the past three summer holidays I have been working with an NGO in India, Youth Innovative Society, who conduct a program called the ‘Girl Child Literacy Program’, where I used to help little girls or even girls of my age to read English. I remember when we started talking about books their faces brightened up. They enjoyed talking about the stories and comics so much and gradually we got connected. Even if the odds were static and stump, they loved reading. So I thought why not share that love of reading within Kuwait, and who knows where it could lead.

IIK: Nice. We appreciate that you joined such a programme when you got an opportunity. So, when you thought of this beautiful idea, how did you work out and develop this platform?

Arpita: This summer, I joined a coding camp, and I just realised that this idea which I’ve had for the past few years, could come into reality. I didn’t know that level of coding, but there were coding experts and graphic designers who helped me bring that platform into reality.

IIK: When you told your parents that you wanted to do this, what was their reaction?

Arpita: Actually, they really loved the idea because they know my love for books for a long time, and they brought me up on books. They loved reading when they were children as well. So, they were really happy with it.

IIK: On your website, if I for example want to join, what should I do? Are there any kind of subscription fee?

Arpita: No, you just have to sign up with your Gmail or phone number and you can just browse the books or join groups. They are like WhatsApp groups where you can communicate with other readers in your area, and there are options for school groups as well. This would make it a lot easier to communicate. I hope when the word spreads, my small community would grow fast. I have plans to propose it to the Book Club of my school which will attract more into it.

Saket: When the idea of a group came up, we thought of 10 as the capacity for a group, which was just a random number to start with. It’s just a parameter, anytime we can change it. For us if 10 readers in Kuwait come together in a group, that itself would be a great achievement.

IIK: What is the response that you are receiving from your friends and other people you meet?

Arpita: My father told me that his colleagues were excited about this and told that it is a mature and creative idea. My friends were really surprised at first. I remember when I first told some of my friends at school, they were like ‘Oh! That’s such a cool idea. I’d really love to join that’. I have quite a few friends who love reading. One of my friends, she loves reading and she has to wait to go to India to get her books. She was really excited about this.
Saket: People are really amazed that a 16-year old came up with such an idea. Arpita’s dad is one of my close colleagues. When this idea was proposed, she shared with her friends and we also shared with some of our colleagues, and they shared further. It’s now taking shape and people are liking it.

IIK: Now that everything is falling in place, what are your main objectives on this?

Arpita: Going around the school, I just see one or two readers in the playground, and they look alone. Or if you go to the library, it’s really quiet, and no one is talking about the books they are reading about. Books are stories, stories are meant to be told and shared. So, if you don’t share a story, then what’s the point of it being a story? So, shareyourbook.org was just giving a little home to the readers in Kuwait. You can come, meet other book friends, and share your books. Well that’s the name. I started it for those little girls in India. So I’d like to pass it to them. Also, the academic books here are really expensive as well. The high schoolers who pass out don’t even need them anymore. It would be really nice if they donate it to other people.

IIK: What was the main hurdles you faced when you started this?

Arpita: The idea of creating a platform for sharing books is simple. But when you put it into reality a lots of questions were there to be answered, like type of books, the genre, would people be actually interested in it, the groups you can have etc. It was a lot more than I thought, but I got a lot of help. The coding team helped me with all the technical aspect which was vital. All of this started about late August and now after 6 months it is ON.
Saket: The idea is simple and most good things are pretty simple in life. We all are book readers and the basic idea is ‘you borrow I lend, I lent you borrow’, and that’s how it goes. When you put that into a digital format, it’s convenient. It’s the good old book exchange we did when we were kids.

IIK: What do you think gives your shareyourbook.org a different feel to the avid readers?

Arpita: First thing would be the colours I’ve chosen; orange, purple, blue. They are very warm colours that ties us into the sense of home. I never wanted it to be with a corporate feel. I wanted like “Hi, I’m your friend. We can all share and talk about books together’. A small cosy platform where at least you know which direction to go into and not feeling completely lost.
Saket: You missed an underlying key point, that is, this is never going to be for profit. This is just a community.

IIK: You are studying in a British School. Do you find any difference in the reading habits of children because of a difference in the schooling type?

Arpita: I know that people in my school, if they read, they do it for fun, but there are only a few. In India, I know that a lot of people read for fun because they have such a rigorous studying schedule. I hope now seeing the availability of books, it will just ignite a spark in the people who don’t read currently, and just motivate them to try out reading.

IIK: Thickness of the book is a factor which pulls back from reading. What is your take on it?

Arpita: Books are all about the story. So you can just break down a book into beginning, middle and end. Once you get into reading it’s the words on the pages, not the number of pages that matter. What I do is, I give them a brief summary of the book. So, if they are interested, they read it. Then I say, ‘you have to reach this part...it’s really interesting’, and the motivation to reach that part of the book is what makes them to finish it.
Saket: This is a really good question because even when she came up with this idea, we gave option to give a quick summary of the book you are uploading. The summary acts like a movie review after which people decide to watch a movie.



IIK: Is there like any age limit to join? Can the kids be a part of shareyourbooks.org?

Arpita: We actually have ‘Dork Diaries’ and ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ that I loved reading as a kid. I think it’s more of a parental consent. We haven’t set any age limit so that anyone can join. I guess you just have to have the parent with you when you go. It’s open for all.

IIK: When and which book made you fall in love with reading?

Arpita: I remember, my first thick book with small font was ‘The Hunger Games’, and I read all three books in the span of just two days. After that, it was a cascade. I started reading ‘The Mortal Instruments’, ‘Harry Potter’, other books like that, and it’s come a long way since that.

IIK: What is your view on e-books?

Arpita: I have a Kindle and I love reading e-books. I find it faster. But there is that feel of having a book in your hand; be it the smell of the pages or turning the pages, I love all of that. Looking at a bookshelf, it feels like a treasure you have collected, and sometimes I even just sit and stare at my bookshelf because I just find it so pretty.

IIK: Do you think the habit of reading gradually dies as we grow into adult?

Arpita: Oh yeah, definitely. We used to read so much when we were children because of required levels of reading at junior grades as well. We don’t have that in high school. And the workload when a student comes to high school makes it a lot harder to read, and people just want to go out with their friends instead of staying home at times and just read a book. Sometimes I just cancel all plans and read a book when I feel like being alone or being in a different world because books are all about different worlds. Socialising and Social Media too, can be a bit tiring at times. I find reading as rejuvenating and a break from any routine work. When I tell my friends it’s just like a movie that you’re making your own inside your head, and they get intrigued by that idea. If they haven’t read a book before; that really works.

IIK: What do you feel about movie adaptations do to a book? Have you ever found a movie version better?

Arpita: Sometimes I like watching the movies first so that I can get a visual of the book. But I find the books to be always better. The thing about movies is that they have the gorgeous visuals and amazing music, and that alone can make you really emotional. But movies can only be up to 3 hours. A book might take 8 hours to read, it differs from person to person. You just cannot fit 8 hours of content into just a 3-hour movie. So, they have to cut short a lot from the original story, sometimes important bits or details too, and it becomes really loose-ended and open-ended at times. A book is more cohesive and it feels like you have actually accomplished something by just seeing a finished book.

IIK: Tell us about your reading habits and who is your favourite author?

Arpita: I read all genre like fiction, fantasy, mystery etc. I just love 1800s fiction. I do read sci-fi too. ‘Skyward series’ about planes and all that was a good read. I love books which has twist and mystery like Verity. Two books that I really like are ‘Sorcery of Thorns’ and ‘An Enchantment of Ravens’ by Margaret Rogerson. Her books are so colourful and visual, and it just makes you feel like you are in the story. I read them both during exam season. Also Sarah. J. Maas. I love her books, and I really wish I could meet her someday. My father really loves Indian authors and we have couple of Indian author books too in our collection. Tried reading Aarushi, a murder story, and it was really scary. I think that it was not a good start. May be one day I’ll start reading Indian authors too.



IIK: Any memories on a book which hit you the hardest?

Arpita: It was a really cold night in my grandmother’s house and the time was 12 in the midnight. I was crying and when she asked me if I was okay, I told her NO. You know what, I was reading ‘A Court of Wings and Ruin’, the last book in the series. The main character dies when he is trying to save the world. It was like you turned the page and it says, ‘And he was dead. I could not take it and I cried. Recently I finished a book, ‘The Queen of Nothing’. It was really nice. It was the finale of another series.

IIK: You said you read that favourite 2 books even during exams. Would you suggest reading books during exam personally?

Arpita: I am meant to say NO; but for me it’s a YES. During exams when you don’t want to study after a point, it’s nice to leave all the exam stress behind, and enter a different world. My exams are majorly concentrated to the middle of May. I even had three exams one day, which was absolutely tiring. And then I had a week break until the next exam. So, I was like should I study, or should I read a book. I did both, and, I find that books become a lot more vivid during exam season.

IIK: Which is that one book do you think a must read one, at least once?

Arpita: Well, I don’t know. May be the ‘Caraval Series’. It’s like a play on fairy-tales. It’s like a carnival; the author made it colourful and mature. It’s a fairy-tale on its own, for adults.

IIK: What are your further plans?

Arpita: Future…it’s very ambitious. I want to work at NASA and help with space exploration. That’s why I want to pursue a degree in Computer Science/Engineering. I started reading science books when I was 7-years old, reading about planets. I have grown with wanting to work at NASA. I do have some dumb ideas that might have some scientific reasoning. One day I might get to put them into reality. But…not really.

IIK: Dumb ideas? Did you consider shareyourbook.org too to be a dumb idea 3 years ago?

Arpita: Yeah, because anyone could have thought about it. I thought it was out there already. But the fact is that the simple ideas aren’t really put into motion because they’re too simple.

IIK: By God’s grace, when you are able to achieve your ambition, then what would happen to this website?

Arpita: Right now I want to talk to different age groups in my school, and through the help of my school, go to other schools as well and broaden the links. I think bringing other people my own age, they will create a chain effect as they will talk about it to their friends, and we will have larger groups coming up. As I told, we have created a community and I think, it will just run by itself. It is built on the people and not me as an individual. It’s built in the hearts of all the readers in Kuwait, may be around the world one day, and I think they will hold that up themselves. It’s just like a social media account, anybody can sign up.

IIK: Yeah that’s true. Thank you for being with us and all the very best for your future?

Arpita: Thank you so much and I’m really glad to have met you in person.


Malavika Krishna
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