Andaleeb Qureshi: The Woman Who Introduced Human Library To Shelved Stories

From a stable work life to coming across a beautiful concept, introducing Human Library to the city was a big contribution Andaleeb made.

Andaleeb Qureshi: The Woman Who Introduced Human Library To Shelved Stories

Books are those portals which take you to a different world; the world of mystery, horror, romance and other genres. You feel as if you are conversing with the characters in the books, and they are responding to you. If reading books can fascinate us, imagine reading and understanding a human book

Passionate and a creative woman, Andaleeb Qureshi always dreamt of contributing to the society. She had a vision but couldn't find the right path and like many other people, she had a stable professional routine but felt a void in her life. And the void screamt back at her: Contribute to the society.

After working in the Pharma sector for eight years, a Chemical engineer by profession, Andaleeb let the monotonous work-life go and responded to the voice which screamt at her. 

She packed her bags and started travelling. Feeling fresh and motivated, she came home knowing what exactly she was seeking. Meanwhile, last year, in March 2017, when she was figuring out a way to contribute to the society, she came across a post 'Living Stories' on Facebook. It was an event that took place in Japan where she saw a picture of a people sitting in a group, engrossed in deep conversation.

I never experienced this in Mumbai. Here, we come across hard-working and intelligent people. We are not the kind to dedicate our time to build an emotional or human connect. We do connect on WhatsApp, but that's not real always. If I send someone a smiley emoji, it doesn't mean I am smiling. We tend to use these pseudo fillers to communicate which is not a real conversation. And I felt this all through my life. I am not a believer in just looking at somebody and putting them down. 

She immediately Googled to know more about the concept, and she discovered her link to contribute to the society, she found The Human Library.

I spoke to the founder and was sold on the idea. We are all unique stories and we can draw inspiration from ourselves which we never knew about. We don't want to share our shortcomings or problems and aren't responsive to others as well. We ignore the importance of sharing as fear of judgement always creeps in. Reading a human is fascinating as there are multiple layers of personalities. I believe that if we share our layers and empathise with people, we can inspire, reveal the bond we share and really change the world. If we are genuine and true to ourselves."

When asked about how people have perceived The Human Library, Andaleeb gleefully said that she was touched by people's gestures and reaction towards it. 

When I started Human Library Mumbai (HLM), I used Facebook to reach out to people. I think the internet is a wonderful space and support from the media industry was unbelievable. I had not expected such a positive reaction from people. No one ever said a discouraging word about this concept. In fact, everyone loved it. In a year's time, I have built a family with my readers, some who come regularly to read a different book and gain a new perspective; while some walk in not knowing what to expect, they leave with such warm feelings and an open mind. So far, I have probably interviewed 90 people (human books) of which I have published 60 people (human books) on the shelf. These people were waiting for this platform to not hide themselves, to defy the stigma they have faced and to bring themselves out, it is how it is and the support has been outstanding."

Andaleeb recalls her first event when she saw people in tears and they wanted to hug her. Some were emotionally moved while some enjoyed connecting with people completely different to them and they stepped out with an experience they would never forget. Some even wrote letters to her. After the first event, in the span of 12 months, she conducted 13 events in different areas of Mumbai.

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The reason I did this is because I wanted people from different parts of the city to use human library as a platform, broaden their perspective, change their attitude and connect with others. Along with this, I wanted people to look at each other with respect and empathy."

Speaking about people's changed perspective, Andaleeb added that people have changed but it is more of a qualitative feedback than quantitative. 

This kind of an experience has a far-reaching payoff. Those who step in for the first time don't know what to expect and that's our first triumph, to let people come in to converse with a stranger and see how their preconceived notions crumble. Then we have readers who continue to borrow more Human Books to read because there is something new they are learning from every book. When I hear their feedback, I realise that they're taking something priceless back home. I have had parents who would come to understand what their kids are going through by listening to other kids. Likewise, kids are choosing books for their mothers. It has a far-reaching effect and I can confidently say that it has helped people change their perspective. To what extent, I can't say, it is subjective. But the conversation retains in their mind. I believe that such ingrained reaction people get, they won't lose the learning. Somewhere down the line, they would use it."

Andaleeb says that Human Library has changed her as a person.

I will never forget the last one year of my life. I'm glad I met the people who have taught me innumerable things. I have grown more as a human and have understood the nuances of life. Now, I have a better conscious than before. Also, when I am listening to someone, I see it as an opportunity to understand them and evolve as a person. Human Library helps people gain perspective and grow out of the stereotypes set by the society. This is what is making me stronger and happier as a person, all of us are trying to bring about a positive change in our society by dropping the prejudices."

Going further, Andaleeb now aims to reach out to those areas where the Human Library has never ventured into. So far, she has covered 12 different areas in Mumbai, and now she is planning to go further. She is also keen on corporate collaborations because she believes that Mumbaikars spend most of their time at work and building a better environment at work is a must. Apart from this, she also aims to connect people of Mumbai with other cities and countries through social media just to get a wider stance to connect with people. 

Besides handling Human Library Mumbai, Andaleeb has partnered with Amber Syed, the founder of The Plum Tree clothing which is a fashion apparel company promoting body positivity by providing fashionable clothing for full-bodied women.
She aims to be a social entrepreneur and continue her work for the society. 

About Human Library:  
The Human Library Mumbai aims to bring together real people of the city as 'Human Books' and 'Readers' and break stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. 

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