Interested in books? You may want to be a part of this Facebook group then.
bOOkahOlics, a Nepali Facebook group established in 2011, has become increasingly popular among the lovers of books and literature. With 15,000 members, it is a platform to explore reading and writing. Entry to bOOkahOlics is open for all. With apparently no vested interest and profit-making motive, the group conducts various events to enhance the reading culture, and to connect readers with writers.
Saguna Shah, the founder of bOOkahOlics, proudly recalls the days of the group’s infancy. She, along with some of her friends, including contemporary writer Anupam Pokharel—author of ‘Rumi’ and ‘Sadguru’, among others—started the group to encourage reading. Gradually, readers and writers started connecting and the group grew.
The unique spelling of the group’s name immediately catches your attention. “Yes, the three O’s in the name is meant to be catchy. It has now become our identity,” says Shah. The group’s slogan? ‘Reading is not optional.’ Indeed.
With time many literary figures joined the platform and discussions became more regular and vibrant. In 2014, the group, in coordination with Nepal’s noted research institute Martin Chautari, conducted its first Chakati Bahas (cushion dialogue), which continues till date.
The popular Chakati Bahas is held at Martin Chautari, Thapathali, on the first Friday of every English month. Members gather around to discuss, evaluate, and comment on a literary work, particularly a book. The meeting focuses on thematic discussion and comparative evaluation.
Apart from nurturing the reading culture, bOOkahOlics team occasionally comes forward to help the community. After the 2015 earthquakes, they provided books, stationery, and sports items to needy school children.
During the lockdown, the group has been organizing online poem competitions and Shrasta Sanga Sakshyatkar (‘face-to-face with the author’), virtually. Ganesh Karki, an admin who also coordinates events, says over 400 poets take part in the poem competition on an average.
In Shrasta Sanga Sakshyatkar, every day a literary figure is invited for a live Facebook session. Karki says the event has been helpful in connecting readers with writers. Among those invited are Madan Puraskar winners Krishna Dharabasi and Yuvaraj Nayaghare.
“bOOkahOlics can be exceptionally helpful in helping you find suitable Nepali books, and even international ones,” says Dharabasi, a 2005 Madan Puraskar winner.
There are dozens of posts each day. “The kind of response we have been getting, we can say that people do like to read,” says Karki.
Members and followers talk about the inspiration they get from the group. “bOOkahOlics has made me fond of reading during the lockdown,” says Bishab Pokharel, 22, who is studying computer engineering in India. For Kathmandu-based IT student Dipesh Dhakal, 20, the platform is like a well-stocked library.