Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Indian Publishing legend visits Bookshare

We just hosted Indian publishing legend Mahendra Meghani, who dropped in last week when many of our team were traveling. The following account comes from Pavi Mehta, Bookshare's Volunteer Coordinator, and I wanted to post it!

It was a quietly special visit. Meghani came with his two hosts and daughter, and at 86 is still keenly interested in learning how technology can help bring books to the disadvantaged. With Carrie’s help he chopped his latest book (a compilation of Gandhi’s writings) up for the Bookshare collection. His publishing house mainly deals with literature in Gujarati but they do have a handful of books in English that they are more than happy to send to us. Viji [Dilip, Bookshare international manager] has sent over the appropriate paperwork and we’ll follow up on that.

This is a guy who as his daughter put it, piled books onto a little vegetable cart and trundled it into the market place so that the common man in small town India would be exposed to the literature of Tolstoy, Gibran, Ruskin and others. And he worked to abridge and translate much of their work. He’s been a grassroots publisher/distributor (with a unique operational model) for decades and has spent years riding buses to obscure corners of his state to read works of literature to people in living rooms, classrooms and various public spaces…I think his humility, dedication and generosity touched all of us who were a part of his visit. From his side he was thrilled to learn more about Bookshare’s work and keenly interested in all parts of the tour (including a Braille Note demo from John Glass).

One highlight of his time with us was his answer to Amy’s question as to how he would define "literature." To which he responded smiling, "I’m not a learned man, and so can’t speak as a scholar. But my definition of literature, is, if after reading it, a man is in a higher place than he was before – that’s literature. And – it’s not something that you read to fall asleep. Literature destroys your sleep."

His answer left us smiling. Wish we’d had an opportunity to share his presence with more of the Bookshare team, but am glad that a handful of us were there. Robin’s got some great pictures of him slicing the binding off his book that she can send out -- once we figure out how to get them off her i-phone!

No comments: