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     Volume 8 Issue 56 | February 6, 2009 |

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Biswa Shahitya Kendra
The Glorious Journey Goes On
Ershad Kamol

In a society that is increasingly becoming materialistic where there are many sources of entertainment, it is not surprising that reading is losing its popularity. Over the years the habit of reading has diminished and people are switching to other means of pleasure, though reading books is considered as the most powerful means for enlightening one's soul. Biswa Shahitya Kendra, for the last thirty years, has successfully started a movement to generate people's interest in reading and thereby to nurture intellect, sense of values and aesthetics.

Volunteers of BSK celebrate the 30th anniversary programme.

The glorious journey began on December 17, 1978 with the slogan 'Alokito Manush Chai' (In Search of an Enlightened Human Being). For the last three decades, the organisation, which is a public welfare trust, has collected a huge collection of books on literature, philosophy, science, politics, economics, social studies and others. Moreover, it provides its members with books by Bangali writers.

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, BSK organised a day-long colourful programme at the Central Public Library premises on January 30 where leading politicians, cultural personalities and an impressive number of felicitators and volunteers gathered. They brought out a colourful procession and passed the day singing, dancing and mingling.

Claiming the organisation's journey for enlightened people as eternal, the President of the trustee board of Bishwa Shahitya Kendra, Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed, says, “There are some dreams that have no specific destination. Which is why it's not possible for anybody to touch the dreams. But, the thirst to touch the dream motivates one to go ahead overcoming the limitations.” “It's true that we have achieved some remarkable successes in terms of expansion of BSK, creating a movement for reading and creating a good number of volunteers to carry out the movement during the last 30 years. Still, we have a long way to go”, he adds.

Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed (4th from the left) with distinguished guests.

At present BSK conducts seven kinds of literary projects throughout the country including central library, outreach programmes, mobile libraries, study circles, publications and audio-visual activities. So far, BSK reaches over four lakh people in 59 districts.

As part of its programme targeting school and college students, BSK has set up 500 branches at different corners of the country. Over, one-lakh students of 1,700 schools and collages are members of these centres. BSK provides 16 books to each student annually. Reading the books, they take part in the study circles and cultural functions. And BSK plans to take the number to two and a half lakh.

Currently BSK operates mobile libraries at the 45 district towns to facilitate over 55 thousands readers under this programme. In the near future BSK hopes to operate mobile libraries at all corners of the country.

“Our outreach programmes have outstanding achievement, since we give proper care and importance. The aim of the programme is to create a taste for reading. It's just the beginning of an endless journey of reading for the students. They take part in discussions and cultural programmes. To boost the students and their parents we give them awards, of course books” says Professor Sayeed.

Moreover, BSK has a central library targeting advanced readers. At present for the six thousands such readers the library has a collection of two lakhs books.

What motivated him to take such a gigantic initiative? Professor Sayeed replies, “It's time to build our nation. For that we need enlightened citizens. Reading books is the most powerful means to make people enlightened, since books can open the door of thoughts for a person. A person can learn everything reading books. Moreover, reading habit broadens an individual's mind. BSK invites the individuals to the path of light through the movement of generating interest for reading books.”

School students present a dance recital at the programme.

“But what is the scenario of the existing libraries and academic curriculam of the country? Are these enough to create the future generation of the country? Through BSK activities, we are helping our citizen to take the future leadership of the country, since BSK gives the platform of the best students of the country to participate at the study circles for interaction. This will create a bond between the best students and will develop leadership qualities in them”, says Professor Sayeed, a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts.

BSK has taken some outstanding plans to enrich the cultural arena of the country. Under its publication project, BSK plans to publish the Bangla version of 750 rare books from all over the world. “It's a 25-year project. Under the project, we will also collect Bangla classics that are going to be lost forever, collecting from different libraries and personal collections. We will also translate these books into English, so that people all over the world know about Bangla classics. At the same time, we will publish books on juvenile literature” informs Professor Sayeed.

Besides publishing and creating movements to encourage reading, BSK has several audio-visual wings. It has a huge collection of world classical music. Moreover, under its cinema wing it operates film appreciation courses, film screening sessions. Commenting on the reason behind operating such audio-visual wings Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeeed says, “Both cinema and music are very powerful mediums for enlightening the human soul. We plan to collect all of the masterpieces composed by legendary musicians and to collect best movies of the world to be screened at the centres of 10 thousands schools.”

Furthermore the organisation has started working internationally as it has five branches in the US and UK. There are three categories of readers, who are the members of BSK: secondary and higher secondary school students, university students and others.

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