Meet 30-year-old Ngrurang Meena who has set up a free roadside library in Arunachal Pradesh
During the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, people have come up with innovative ideas to stay engaged and learn new skills. Thirty-year-old Ngurang Meena is one such person from Arunachal Pradesh’s Nirjuli Town, who has set up a roadside library to encourage a love for reading.
“It is only 10 days since we set up this street library and the response from readers has been overwhelming. So far, no books have been stolen from the open rack and I am not worried because even if a book gets stolen, I will be glad as it will be of some purpose to the thief. What can a person do with a book other than reading?” the founder of the library and government school teacher Ngurang Meena told North East Today.
Ngurang was inspired by one of Mizoram’s roadside libraries that opened earlier this year. Along with her friend Diwang Hoasi, they came up with the idea of the street library for their own town.
In memory of their late father, she started the Ngurang Learning Institute (NLI) in 2014 along with her younger sister, Ngurang Reena, a PhD scholar from JNU, New Delhi. For the last six years, NIL has helped over a thousand people to read, write and live dignified lives with the help of various skill development training programmes.
In order to put her free time during the pandemic to good use, she started the library, which has a number of books covering different topics. She has kept about 70-80 books on the shelves.
She spent about Rs 10,000 to purchase the books and spent another Rs 10,000 to make the wooden shelves for the ‘self-help library’. She also offers sweets to children who visit her library. Children under the age of 10 and working women are frequent visitors.
"I am the first woman from my family to pursue a higher education. As a tribal child growing up in a border state, I had little access to books and libraries. Reading and writing were limited activities and confined only to textbooks. Although we have a few government libraries in the state, my siblings and I never had the chance to visit any during our childhood," Meena told The Logical Indian.
Considering its positive effects on people, many have encouraged the initiative and have also contributed cash to buy more books.
"Although my inspiration is Mizoram, I realise that Arunachal is very different. Kids have poor writing skills. I want students of Classes IX-XII to improve their writing skills by reading more," she said.
With this library, Meena hopes to encourage others to take up such similar activities in other places.
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan