“A book is a gift you can open again and again”
This quote from the American author Garrison Keillor perfectly sums up how, one ‘Uncle Moosa’, driven by a vision of planting the seeds of reading in the minds of children, has gifted them the precious company of books, in the far-flung Arunachal Pradesh, where, like in other remote parts of the country, children have little or no access to reading.
Born in Kerala, Shri Sathyanarayan Mundayoor—Sathyanarayanji to adults and Uncle Moosa to the young—has spent 32 years in the North-East, influencing the education and reading movements at various levels. Having quit his plush government job in the income tax department in 1979, to lead a meaningful life, he followed a chance advertisement that led him to apply for a position with the Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya school movement that was then starting to spread its roots in the north-east. Here, he worked as the education officer for the VKV schools till 1996.
Sathyanarayan was fed up with the unimaginative teaching methods rampant in schools and decided to branch out from the confines of formal education. He understood the need to stimulate the reading habits of children and allow them to discover the power of imagination.
He began this crusade by carrying a trunk-load of books in public transport to organize book exhibitions in remote villages in the region to promote reading among tribal children. He has since collaborated with several like-minded supporters to source carefully selected books. Today, Uncle Moosa’s libraries have more than 10,000 books ranging from Amar Chitra Katha to Roald Dahl, Ruskin Bond, and Dr. Seuss – and initiate a veritable Youth Library Movement.
His first public library named Bamboosa in 2007. Situated in Tezu town in Lohit district, Bamboosa library was set up in collaboration with Delhi-based Association of Writers & Illustrators for Children (AWIC), the Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra Trust (VT), Mysore, and the Lohit District administration. It was a first-of-its-kind partnership between a state government, a national organization of writers and several NGOs and volunteers.
The VT-AWIC network has since expanded to other remote areas like Anjaw, Wakro etc. and now manages 13 mini libraries in the Arunachal alone. These libraries are actually run by children enlisted as ‘library activists’ and have become a hub of activities. They apply various methods of learning like reading sessions, storytelling, skits, exhibitions, drawings, sketching, quizzes, internal contests, workshops etc. Children participate in the activities and visit other schools regularly to encourage reading habits in other children.
According to Uncle Moosa, making a child literate is different from educating him. Education happens when the subject matter connects with the heart and the reader yearns to explore more of it. This can be done when we leave children among books and let them explore. Uncle Moosa is trying to achieve this through his public libraries. His objective is to create an environment in which children crave for books and treat them as their best friends and teachers.
His love for Arunachal and its children is never ending. His folktale story book depicting folk tales of Arunachal tribes is widely appreciated. From Dibang Valley to Lohit and to Anjaw or to Wakro, he has been working ceaselessly, despite harsh weather, commute, or landslide, with just one intent- to spread the joy of reading among children.
His selfless dedication has fetched him AWIC Roll of Honour In 2007.Times Now TV featured him as Amazing Indian and in a survey conducted by Times group titled him as Hero of Modern Age.
Uncle Moosa is an inspiration in the true sense of the term. An unsung hero like him deserves all praise, and ScripBros is glad to present his story to the world.