Srinagar: When 21-year-old voracious reader Mubashir Mushtaq returned to his Helmatpora village during the first Covid-19 lockdown, he struggled to find a copy of a weekly magazine in the entire Kupwara district.
Such was his curiosity to read the latest edition that he risked his life and visited Srinagar during curfew to grab the copy. The struggle made him realize the helplessness of students to get books in their village.
Come 2021, he decided to set up a public library in his village to help students to access books at their doorsteps.
“I have been already working on child education and child labor for long. In my village, I realized that many students give up school or poorly perform in their exams mainly because they do not have books. So, I decided to set up one library for my villagers,” he said.
Later, he teamed up with his friends and started a campaign to collect books from the people. “I polled my pocket money to buy books. My friends also helped me in making this initiative a success. Today we have around 1600 books related to academics, literature, and competitive examinations,” said Mubashir, who is pursuing B.SC in Bio-chemistry at SP College, Srinagar.
However, Mubashir had to face another challenge as people in the village were not ready to visit the library.
“People do not visit libraries in our village. I had to build a narrative that free-of-cost books are available in this library. The response was massive. Today we have more than 40 registrations,” Mubashir said.
He said the library has inculcated a reading culture among the people of his village. “I met people, particularly the elderly, and asked them to avail books free of cost. I got support from administration and my college as well,” Mubashir said.
He said that his team is now preparing to set up libraries in other villages of the district. “We are now planning to set up a library in Kralpora, which will be followed by Lolab, Handwara, and Sopore,” Mubashir said.