South Asian Heritage Month: Stories To Tell (2)

By Dr Emily Klimova

The University of Surrey Library recently hosted a pop-up Living Book event in celebration of South Asian Heritage Month and this year’s theme was Storytelling, which proved exceptionally fitting.

Our aim was to encourage the flow of conversation, curiosity, and cultural exchange in an open and welcoming space free of judgement. Our ‘readers’ could check out one (or more!) of our living books and settle in for a private conversation over some delicious snacks and traditional Indian tea, while other guests could mingle and chat around the snack tables and themed book display of South Asian Literature.

This year, we were fortunate to have three excellent ‘books’ for our readers to choose from: Professor Osama Khan, Dr Anesa Hosein, and Amritpal Bansal (MBACP). They were drawn from the South Asian community at our university and brought with them a rich depth of mentoring, inspiration, advice, lived experience, and professional tips delivered in a warm and engaging manner. The smiles and enthusiasm of these conversations were certainly indicative of an enjoyable time had by books and readers alike.

Our display of South Asian art and our interactive folk-tale board also drew in even more curious passers-by, who turned into additional guests at the event and joined in the on-going conversations.

Certainly, it is safe to say that the snack table served as a second fulcrum of connection and conversation as some attendees tried Indian snacks or tea for the first time, while others had a delicious taste of home while studying or working abroad. The American writer Winona LaDuke observed that ‘Food has a culture. It has a history. It has a story. It has relationships’, and I think that our event was an excellent demonstration of just this.

All in all, it proved to be an interesting and enlightening event that encouraged forging new connections and friendships within and with the South Asian community. As the organisers, we have learned a lot from hosting this event and from our wonderful speakers and guests, and we look forward to offering many more such events in future.

LaDuke,W. (2012) Seeds of Our Ancestors, Seeds of Life TEDxTC