Delhi Reads: Nurturing young minds and building bridges

- March 10, 2024
| By : Mohsina Malik |

Two college graduates have embarked on a mission to encourage youth into reading through a club that is affordable and encourages discussion and debate

INCULCATING KNOWLEDGE: Molina Singh (left) and Paridhi Puri started Delhi Reads, which is an initiative to develop reading habits

Two visionary women, Molina Singh and Paridhi Puri, have set out on a mission to revive the habit of reading in the national capital.

They have come up with “Delhi Reads”, a unique reading initiative that creates a tapestry of literary interaction by allowing enthusiasts to discover the rich cultural legacy of the city via book exchanges, lively discussions, and literary walks.

The initiative cultivates a lively community of young readers who are keyed into literature, cinema, and pop culture.

Their spaces ensure that the sound of pages muffles the din of daily life. The free-of-charge sessions are held in the fourth and fifth weeks of every month and are open to people between 18 and 28.

Molina, 23, who recently graduated from Gargi College of Delhi University with a degree in history and English literature, envisions Delhi Reads as more than just a book club.

She says, “After graduation, I felt that there is a significant lack of spaces for like-minded young individuals who are into book reading. Though there are traditional book clubs, unfortunately everybody cannot afford them as the amount of fees is beyond the budget of a college and university-going student.

“So, I, along with another co-founder, came up with the idea of Delhi Reads, which is free and where everybody can share their thoughts and discuss topics of their interest without worrying about being judged. We started this initiative in 2023 for the enthusiasts of books, literature, cinema, and pop culture,” she adds.

Talking about the vision behind Delhi Reads, Molina says, “When one is in college or university, one is bound by a structure, like a nine-to-five schedule, but once the life of student era is gone, one is not controlled by a structure and that is sometimes missed.

“Once college was over, I felt that I was lacking a space for reading and that I would not be able to explore different subjects, discuss, be part of competitions and festivals, and just be myself. I felt it would be snatched away from me forever. That is how Delhi Reads came into existence for the people who thought like us and felt it like an institution where there are no limitations and which has space for all types of discussion.”

ENGAGING: The members often indulge in discussions and debates on not just the subjects of the books but also about Delhi

The initiative, which kicked off just over a year ago, has gained acceptance rapidly, drawing in a diverse group of avid readers. With monthly meet-ups, literary walks, and interactive events, Delhi Reads is looking to foster a sense of community among young book enthusiasts.

Molina adds, “Delhi has so much to offer, but one has to take initiative and make a space that is welcoming and affordable. There are numerous book clubs around us, but we wanted Delhi Reads to be unique in the sense that young people could come together and discuss things.”

The discussions among the members go beyond themes and topics in the book. They are about contemporary topics and their effects on one’s life.

“We don’t just discuss the themes of the book in a conventional way, but we ensure that people talk about contemporary topics or the discourses going on among our generation in this digital age and how they impact their personal lives. Our mission is to get the community to talk while reading books because sharing thoughts on what they consume helps others to brainstorm and learn more in an effective manner,” she adds.

Paridhi Puri, the 22-year-old co-founder, and also a recent graduate from one of the Delhi University colleges, feels that the emotional understanding and sensory gestures of book enthusiasts cannot be felt within the four walls of a house.

“There is a need for young people to come together and sit and talk, as we already have limited spaces. People who feel like listening to us, are able to tell us what we want to say and talk about. While reading books within the four walls, the information and thoughts consumed are limited to the very person reading them, but once you are sitting around folk who share the same passion as you do, you feel more comfortable opening up and sharing thoughts.”

The appreciation after the discussion boosts one’s confidence, she feels.

“Through in-person meetings, one can understand the emotional and sensory gestures of a person once they start talking about the topic of their interest, and if they are acknowledged, they feel more appreciated,” Puri adds.

The initiative to cultivate book reading habit faces challenge from the various options people have for leisure nowadays.

“We are seeing a decline in book reading culture because we now have too many options to try our hands on, but there are enthusiasts who are wandering to find a space as per their satisfaction. We also have strict rules because we are concerned about the safety of our participants.”

The sessions also encourage the members to explore the city.

“I feel book clubs have a unique way of stroking the embers of people’s passion for literature — uniting people to read, discuss, and savour the beauty of writing together.

“The name is Delhi Reads—there is reading, but there is also ‘Delhi’ before ‘Reads’ because our sessions are not only limited to book sessions but also exploring the city and discovering cultures, history, and heritage, and having book exchanges and book tours to bring a community together while keeping the central message of reading flourishing.”

Nandita Sharma, a 21-year-old student of humanities from Jamia Millia Islamia, expresses her enthusiasm, saying, “Delhi Reads has given me a sense of community where my passion for reading is not only embraced but celebrated. It is refreshing to be part of something that goes beyond the usual book club experience. I have made friends who were strangers to me before, and now we tag along on book tours and sessions to grab what we can in tight schedules.

“Each month, I wait for the session so that I can share what I have in mind and what I consume. Delhi Reads is the best innovation that has given wings to me as I could not have afforded an expensive book club as a student, and they have very limited options available. Here, we have overcome that,” adds Nandita.

GATHERING: The participants are encouraged to exchange books and notes whenever they meet

She says that the sessions encourage exchange of books and talks by the authors.

“I am glad that I have come across this.”

The two women are able to foster different perspectives under one roof and run this book club so efficiently while ushering in a more interactive and connected era for young bibliophiles.