Artwork by Harshita Bandodkar
The Book Club Pune, now in existence for 18 years, was founded by Satish and Mohini Khot in December 2002. We began to meet on the last Monday of each month at the United Services Library located on the premises of the Poona Club. We then started meeting on the last Wednesday of each month at 6:00 pm at Gyan Adab, Lane 3, Kalyani Nagar.
We discuss both fiction and non-fiction, and even films, of current interest. The average number of participants is around 40 to 50 but we have had even 125 on an occasion. Our mailing list borders on a thousand.
The selection of books to be discussed is very democratic. Participants volunteer to present a book they have found to be significant. After they offer a brief description of it, the group present decides to list it or not. We try to announce books two, three months in advance so that people can buy/borrow/read the book in readiness for the session. However, there are always some who have not read the book but come with an eagerness to know about it. Therefore the modus operandi we have developed is that of a presentation followed by a discussion. There are always questions galore and inevitably a very interesting, thought-provoking and fruitful conversation ensues.
Satish Khot and Mohini Khot founded the Pune Book Club in 2002.
We take pride in having managed to keep this activity open for all. Anyone can come. Everyone is welcome. The sole idea is to encourage reading and meaningful discussion of ideas. Our participants span a wide range of age groups and professions. What we share is a love and respect for books. We have had authors present their books themselves. Among them are Priya Sarukkai Chhabria, Raj Rao, Deepak Dalal, Kavita Kane, Sujata Sabnis, Saaz Agarwal, Pankaj Sekhsaria, Salil Desai, Sunanda Mehta. Avni Doshi, the author of Burnt Sugar, shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020, also graced us with his presence.
Other than discussion of books, we have also had book launches, screening of documentaries, discussion of films, comparison of books with their film adaptations. We celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday with recitations and enactments by our own members and were featured on national TV by the NDTV channel. We have had screenings for children, followed by an interactive discussion. Increasingly, the presentations have been audio-visual ones, or incorporating slides. We have also held story telling sessions and poetry recitations. We have had quizzes and language games.
The sole idea is to encourage reading and meaningful discussion of ideas. Our participants span a wide range of age groups and professions.
Interestingly, we also organized a “Wake” in the Irish style when bidding a sad farewell to the popular book shop Manneys when they closed down. In the Irish tradition, there was food and (soft) drinks laid on (brought by some of us)! There were a few enactments, like the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and some eulogies and memories connected with our experience of the shop throughout our reading lives.
A fairly recent spin-off that emerged from The Book Club Pune was a new forum called Between the Lines. After several requests for discussions on classics from literature, we decided to create a separate platform for this. Another no-membership-fee, no-holds-barred discussion platform, Between the Lines, had its maiden session on Wednesday 12th July 2017 at Gyan Adab with a presentation and discussion of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the only epic poem in English. It was an experiment and, since it drew an audience of 50+, we decided to make it an ongoing monthly event.
The lockdown brought its own problems. Denied the possibility of getting together in a physical space, we switched to an online meeting using Zoom. Believe it or not but since March we now meet every Sunday evening! It has been wonderful to keep in touch with our fellow book lovers online. In fact, because of the online format, people have been able to join us from around the world! We now have people joining from Canada, the USA, England, Switzerland, Hong Kong, France, and several cities in India. I guess every cloud has a silver lining and the loss of physical meeting has been counter-balanced by a widening of the reach. Our sessions are live streaming on Facebook and are archived on the Gyan Adab website, available any time. It is heartening to see 700+ viewers on Facebook for some of the sessions!
Thanks, Satish & Mohini, for describing the activities of the Book Club Pune and giving the readers of Fundamatics an insight into how you have managed to spread the reach of your weekly meetings, thanks to the pandemic. Having enjoyed the presentations and discussions and participated in the thought-provoking and fruitful conversations online on a few occasions, here’s hoping ( loudly ) that many readers of Fundamatics will be drawn towards this Book Club movement.