Last year, Sheik Sadiq Ali pushed his cart 1000 kms in 100 days to take books to rural areas.

For the love of reading How this Telangana man uses a pushcart to promote booksAll images: Facebook
news Human interest Sunday, May 07, 2017 - 15:43

It was in February 2015, that Sheik Sadiq Ali, a former journalist, had an idea. 

"I grew up reading a lot of books, especially poetry, and I wanted the younger generation to share that. So, I decided to take out my 'Topudu Bandi' and began pushing," the 52-year-old says.

Sadiq took a pushcart, similar to the ones that vegetable sellers use, and filled it up with Telugu books. He then began to push it around Hyderabad, choosing one area every day.

Soon he began attracting attention.

"The response was great. Many people started recognising me, as I had pushed for almost 350 kms in a little over a year. I also used to take the 'bandi' to several book fairs, carnivals and public gatherings like that," Sadiq narrates. 

Sadiq, a post-graduate in Telugu literature from Osmania University, is a native of Kalluru in Khammam district, and had set up a marriage bureau after he quit journalism.

The books sold from the 'Thopudu Bandi' were cheap, ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 100, to encourage more people to pick one up.

As he realised that there was a huge market for books, he started publicizing his idea through social media. Today, the 'Topudu Bandi' page has close to 2,000 followers on Facebook.

"In December 2015, after the Hyderabad National Book Fair ended, I decided that I wanted to take books to rural areas of the state as well. That's when I planned to push my cart for 1,000 km over 100 days," says Sadiq. 

After a month of planning, on January 24, 2016, Sadiq began his journey.  

"I began pushing, and I crossed Uppal in Hyderabad, and slowly began entering rural areas on the outskirts. However, I immediately realised that all those heavy books I was carrying, was of no use. A rural person is not going to buy a bulky autobiography," he remarks. 

Sadiq says that he then went back, and filled his cart with smaller books and began selling them for Rs 10 and Rs 20.

 

"They absolutely loved the books. Many of them would crowd around the cart, but as I went further into the rural areas, many did not have the capacity to buy the books. Even Rs 5 and Rs 10 was hard for them. Some of them would read a little bit and give it back to me, while others would copy a small book down by hand, so they could go back later and read it," he adds.

Sadiq says that they were interested, but access to books was really tough for them. 

"That's when I decided to give away books for free. With the help of many people, we have given away books worth Rs 18 lakh to locals in various districts of Telangana for free," he says.

However, Sadiq was not done yet, as many people approached him, and told him that they wanted more books to read.

"Many of these places, they had one or two empty buildings. So, we bought a table, a chair, one bookshelf and donated several books, thereby establishing small libraries in around 70 villages across Rangareddy, Nalgonda, Medak and Warangal districts," he says.

Sadiq finally finished his 1000 km trip on May 8 last year, after he reached Warangal in 104 days. 

"In Warangal, we have started a few libraries in government schools. It is very heartening to see so many eager children, willing to learn and absorb books. They just need to be given the right opportunity. We also organised a 'Warangal book fair' along the lines of the Hyderabad version," says Sadiq, who is presently in Warangal. 

Sadiq has since met several prominent personalities like Telangana and Andhra governor ESL Narasimhan, and was also felicitated by Telangana Education Minister Kadiyam Srihari.

"This week, it has become exactly one year since I completed the 1000 km walk. I wanted to do something, so we are planning to give away books to children in 28 major slums of Warangal. We will also teach them how to read if necessary, if the child is really interested," he adds.

While Sadiq has moved away from selling just poetry, and spread out to selling books of all genres, and multiple languages, he says that he is facing financial difficulties now. 

However, he has been able to manage due to well-wishers and donors.

"I had enough money to lead a comfortable life, but I do this out of passion, and out of the love for reading. We want to spread knowledge through these books, specifically to rural children, as they often lack the resources and facilities. If anyone is willing to donate books also, we will be more than happy to take it," he says.

 

 

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