Saturday, July 19, 2008


Yesterday I was invited to speak to the members of the Women’s Forum organized by a rural library.The Forum is a part of a network programme envisaged by the Kerala State Library Council with the objective of bringing the women community to the main stream of social and cultural activism.With a track record of more than sixty years in the social transformation of the state,KSLC has realized that many of the evils now re-emerging in the society could be wiped out only by the empowerment of women.They are still behind or beside the curtain,hesitant to enter the stage.The Forum provides them sufficient space to group,discuss and react.Of course books are expected to serve as the weapon as Bertolt
Brecht once dreamt.

To my surprise the attendance was beyond my calculations.About one hundred women around 16-60 age group were keenly listening to the speakers.At about 11.00 AM on a Saturday,it is a seldom sight in any village now.

Enthused very much by the responses which I could read from their innocent faces,I detailed the role our women have to play in meeting the challenges before the society and how books could serve as the binding links in bringing about a new sense of unity.And at one stage I asked a question: How many of you have read at least one book during last week?

The answer was what I had expected.Hardly five or six of them raised their hands.Roughly 5%!

As the president of the Kollam Taluk Library Council,I was convinced that the concerted efforts put in by KSLC,to inculcate reading habits in the younger generation in general, and womenfolk in particular do not bear enough fruit.This is despite the fact that we deliver books at their doors taking into account their difficulties in visiting the libraries.

The situation is alarming.Kerala with the highest literacy rate in the country is often eulogized as a model.But do the people of Kerala sustain the quality of literacy any civilized society is expected to do? As a cultural activist for more than three decades, I feel that the graph is falling.That is why unprecedented events of crime and sexual exploitation are on the increase thereby eroding the cherished values of the society.

How to restore the reading habit among our women? The answer eludes me.

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