“Let’s do something about it!” There’s no waiting around for someone else to fix things for these guys, they’re taking matters in their own hands — from skiing to raise money for the leprosy-afflicted to rewriting an unbiased history of India and Pakistan; recycling tyres and pushing solar energy to solutions for the hearing impaired and making earthquake relief count. Motherland picks out a bunch of promising superheroes from across the country, determined to light up the world we live in.
Kyra Roy’s entire book collection was slowly being handed over to her younger cousin Amyra. That was the plan anyway. Until one day Kyra walked up to her mother with a slight change. “Why don’t we give these books to someone who can’t afford them on their own?” And just like that, Kyra’s Book Bank was born, donating books to schools and institutions that needed them. She was eight at the time.
Her mother suspects that it’s a decision that may have been coloured somewhat by an argument Kyra had with Amyra, but the seed had been planted; she had absorbed a sense of social responsibility, and she wanted to share her vast collection of books with kids who couldn’t afford them. Her first project was with a school for hearing-impaired and mentally challenged children in Igatpuri, a town in Maharashtra. She tells us about the adventure, speaking with a sense of confidence and coherence that belies her 10 years of life experience: “My grandmother helped me gather books from friends and other people who wanted to give them away.” The school had a big library, but it could only accommodate a few students at a time because they barely had any books.
“So,” Kyra goes on, “when Nani asked them if they wanted any, they said yes, and I collected around 400 books to fill up the entire library, and also new colouring books and materials. My Nani’s friend also gave us a lot of pens because they own a pen factory.”
Kyra’s Book Bank collects used books from across the country and beyond, along with new stationery sets. Kyra herself has a large heart, parting with her own books, letting go of any attachments for the larger good. Forget her age, it’s a rare trait to have for anyone. “Once I have read a book, I already have it inside me,” she says, rather poignantly. “It’s already a part of me. So, if I’m not going to read it again, I like to give it to others to read.”
There’s a Facebook page set up by her mother to help spread the word. “I couldn’t make one myself because I am not old enough to own an account. My mother left her phone number there so that anyone interested in sending across books could contact us. My friends and teachers at school also gave away a lot of books that were lying at their homes.” Two drop-off points were made — one at her mother’s office in the heart of the city, another at her grandmother’s home in the suburbs.
“My cousin also teaches at a school in Jogeshwari with Teach for India, and I spoke to him about collecting some books for them. This was our second project. He told me they wanted reference books and stationery. But we were not interested in collecting used stationery. So, he made us a list of things. When we put that list out, someone from Delhi got in touch and offered money. But I am too young to handle money, so we told her we can’t accept that. Then she ordered us really fancy things — English-to-Hindi dictionaries, atlases from Flipkart — which got shipped to us. He eventually dressed as Santa and gave away these things to the children at the school.”
Kyra has met and spoken to a host of people who’ve helped her spread this love for reading. Eventually, word reached other parts of the country as well and people volunteered to collect books in their respective areas and send them across. “We even got a package of books from London!” she adds, excitedly. Once multiple batches of books are received, Kyra sorts them out class-wise, and separates leisure reading from academic course work. She herself helms the initiative, and Kyra’s Book Bank distributes books and stationery as and when it reaches them, while also catering to any specific requests made by schools that need help with resources. To contribute and get updates, visit www.facebook.com/KyrasBookBank