Social media is a wonderful space. Given its power and reach to connect diverse sets of audience on almost every perspective, it has also opened new doors for book lovers. There is a strong presence of many book clubs on the internet now, but “Bibliophiles of Bombay”(BOB) stands apart.

Nirav Mehta’s BOB introduces bibliophiles based in Mumbai to the world by narrating their “reading journey” on Facebook. This club also offers a common platform to literature enthusiasts in general, enabling them to communicate and exchange ideas on literary topics and other happenings in the world.

In a tête-à-tête with Guardian 20, he talks about BOB, its future endeavours and his journey as a lifelong bibliophile.

Q.Please explain to us how does “Bibliophiles of Bombay” work?

A. Bibliophiles of Bombay is similar to Humans of New York but this page is only specific to bibliophiles living or touring in the city of Bombay.

Q. What made you come up with this unique idea?

A.I am a co-founder of a book club known as “Broke Bibliophiles—Bombay Chapter (B3C)”. Because of this book club, which has offline meet-ups regularly on a fortnightly basis, I get to meet a lot of bibliophiles and new people. These folks have become friends now and knowing what they read and what not I thought I should start this and share their reading journey and how difficult or easy reading it has been for them.

Q. How often do you post these stories, and do you have any particular idea in mind while sharing those, since most social media forums these days work to get traction?

A. I post them once a week mostly on Fridays. I did not have nor do I now have any motive that I intend to achieve out of this page. People who know me and have been a part of this have done it selflessly. All I did was to just ask them if they would like to be a part of it and a lot of them were generous enough.

I do wish to feature a few eminent authors like Sudha Murty, Amitav Ghosh, and Arundhati Roy, to name a few, even if they are not actually based in Bombay but can help to give out a message to make reading a compulsory habit in our daily hectic lifestyle. Even if one person, after going through these stories, is getting affected (in a good way) and takes up reading, I believe my work is done.
Q. What other bibliophile groups are you a part of?

A. On an online basis I am a part of many bibliophile groups, to name a few—”Senior Reading Raccoons”, “Bombay BYOB Club”, “The T.A.R.{who}.D.I.S. Book Club” and “Bookhad”. On an offline basis, it’s just has been “Broke Bibliophiles: Bombay Chapter” (B3C).

Q.How and when did the “Broke Bibliophiles: Bombay Chapter” happen?

A. There is a Facebook group known as “Book Deals for Broke Bibliophiles – India” where a post was made to take book discussions offline and that’s where the whole city-wise chapters got initiated where people volunteered to host meet-ups in their respective cities. That’s where I got to know my co-founder, Ankush and within 18 hours of an online discussion, we had our first event up at a café in Bandra in April 2016 and eleven people joined the meet. Since then, those eleven members have been the core team members and have hosted meetups around Mumbai.

We have 2000 member and have conducted 29 meets including the first one and I am sure we aren’t stopping anytime soon. We usually have 4-5 new people at every meet and it’s lovely to keep having a mixture of old and new.

Q. Often offline meetings are organised for the group members. How enriching are these meet-ups? Is there any particular experience from these meet-ups that has further shaped your love for books?

 A. These meet-ups are organised on a fortnightly basis. None of them have an agenda and we proceed on a freewheeling basis. We do not discuss one specific book or a genre. This way we get to know more about different books that people are reading and it doesn’t limit us to any one author/genre or specific group. I can’t pinpoint one meet or one particular experience that has shaped my love for books. The whole organising part and people coming and discussing their love for books is what makes me happy. Every meet there is something that makes me fall in love with book/books and it is always nice to meet someone who has the same taste as yours or is reading the same book as you are.

Q. How relevant do you think physical books are when the market is abuzz with ebooks?

A.I think in this digital age we all are glued to our screens for at least 12 hours a day and that includes our mobile phones and PC’s/laptops. Going off the radar from social media and the Internet there is so much you can do and that includes reading books or surfing books at a bookstore/library (which is my favourite part). No offense to e-reader owners but they were too first introduced to physical books than e-books directly.

Q. While you have covered the journey of a lot many bibliophiles, could you please share with us your own rendezvous with books?

A. [Laughs] I›d rather not speak about it. It has been a tough ride since childhood. My school library wasn’t that great or maybe I was a dimwit and didn’t know what to pick up first. But since college days I have read whatever I got my hands on. Yes, I feel no shame in accepting that I have read a lot of books that I regretted later but it’s just because of them I got acquainted with a lot of new authors, books and such like-minded people who have shaped my reading habits. This year I have a target of reading 100 books and have crossed 47 already. I just can’t wait to read new works of Ruskin Bond, Arundhati Roy and Lang Leav which are getting released in June.

Q. Social media has given a platform to many book clubs (and other clubs) to grow in every nook and corner. What is it about this platform that is making them flourish?

 A. It’s lovely to see so many groups especially book clubs flourishing over digital platforms. The more the merrier. But there is also a disadvantage as you might just end up scrolling to each and every post and waste your time, which you can give to a book.

Q. How long do you plan to continue BOB? Any particular idea you have regarding its future?

 A. I am not sure. It shall go on till my heart decides as bringing on new people is not that difficult but maintaining a page and giving out a good story every week is. You don’t want people to read something, which they don’t feel connected to.

Q. Please enlist your favorite books and authors? Any particular genre you are fond of? If yes, which one is it, and why?

A. As a bibliophile, it is difficult to enlist favourite books or a particular genre. As I said before I read whatever I get my hands on as I don’t want to limit myself to just one genre or author specific works. Last year I read all fiction books by Sudha Murty. This year I am reading more of graphic novels and Indian regional literature translated into English.

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