A deep dive into the establishment of India’s first airport reading lounge at Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, Varanasi, and its cultural significance.
Varanasi, the spiritual heartland of India, has added another feather to its cap. The city’s Lal Bahadur Shastri International (LBSI) Airport has become the first in the country to host a reading lounge. This unique initiative, established with the help of the National Book Trust (NBT), presents a vast collection of literature in various languages, including books about Kashi and works of youth authors published under Prime Minister Yuva Yojana.
The Genesis of the Reading Lounge
This reading lounge, the first of its kind in an Indian airport, has been established near the entrance point of the airport’s main lobby. LBSI airport director Aryama Sanyal highlighted the significance of this initiative, stating, “The Varanasi airport has become the first airport in the country to have a free reading lounge. The NBT will operate this lounge, created with the assistance of an Indian publishing house and autonomous body under the Ministry of Education of the Union government.”
Inauguration and Future Plans
The lounge was inaugurated by the Chief Minister’s advisor, Avanish Awasthi, who has been associated with the NBT for four-five years, working on the issue of disability. He expressed his delight at participating in the inaugural event of this unique initiative, which he said was inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of promoting both sports and studies. Awasthi also mooted the idea of opening similar reading lounges in other parts of the state with the help of the NBT.
A Slice of Kashi at the Airport
The Airport Reading Lounge is not just a repository of books; it’s a microcosm of Kashi, catering to both traditionalists and contemporary visitors. The lounge features a diverse array of books on India’s culture, history, traditional knowledge systems, health and wellness, and literature in Hindi, French, Spanish, English, and many other Indian languages.
It also celebrates Varanasi’s literary icons through their works and reveals unknown facts and connections about the city. For the younger generation, it offers a dedicated shelf displaying recently published books under the Prime Minister’s Mentorship Scheme for Young Writers (PM-YUVA Scheme).
Apart from the physical books, the lounge provides a unique digital reading experience. Visitors can access downloaded portions of any book through a QR code, while another QR code grants access to select Free Audiobooks. This digital feature ensures the technology-driven generation can enjoy reading or listening to their chosen books on their mobile, laptop, or tablet.
Implications and Looking Ahead
This first-of-its-kind initiative sets a precedent for other Indian airports. It underscores the potential of such spaces in promoting reading culture, showcasing local culture and heritage, and providing travellers with a unique experience. As airports evolve into spaces offering more than just travel services, the Reading Lounge at Varanasi’s LBSI Airport offers a blueprint for blending culture, literature, and technology in a travel setting.
The success of this initiative might pave the way for similar lounges across the country, transforming Indian airports into hubs of cultural and literary exploration.