A Twitter hour of your time
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It’s 2.45 on a bright Sunday afternoon and I am in the midst of a noisy family gathering at the Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, near Delhi. Even as young nieces and nephews pull me into a corner, urging me to tell a Gruffalo story, my eye remains on the watch, waiting for 3pm. Every Sunday, for the hour that follows, I retreat into my own private little haven on Twitter.
It’s ironic that I choose social media to steer away from the madding crowds, but that hour is reserved for the sole thing that drives my day—a hearty dose of books. I get to meet fellow bibliophiles from across the country on The Sunday Book Club, or TSBC, a Twitter-based book club. Through casual conversations on varied subjects, we discover previously unread authors and genres—for instance, sci-fi, a genre that I was averse to earlier, is a new favourite.
This particular Sunday, the discussion is centred around the need to read, and the extent to which one has gone in order to read a book. Authors such as J.K. Rowling, Naguib Mahfouz, Haruki Murakami and P.D. James are discussed with gusto even as participants share stories of how they sometimes miss office to finish a book or pray for traffic jams just to get to that last page.
On another Sunday, we spoke of preferred bedtime reads. We revisited childhood memories of tales of fantasy and adventure brought alive by grandparents, salivated over the teatime snacks and treats in Enid Blyton books, and discussed how bedtime reads changed for us as teenagers and adults. It was 3.45pm and the suggestion came: Make up a bedtime story in a tweet or two. There was silence for a moment or two, and suddenly the chat erupted in a barrage of 140-word tales, ranging from the deadpan to the fantastical and the morbid. My favourite, reminiscent of Gruffalo, is the one by @venky1976: “He looked up & there it was on the top branch! His own creation—neither a crow nor an eagle. Or was it both? THE CREAGLE!”
While the TSBC has existed for four years now, its founders, Sudha Ganapathi and Raghav Modi, who live in different cities, have met only once. “The club actually started with three co-founders, including Rahul (Gupta). But with him moving to a different time zone, the TSBC is now run just by the two of us,” explain Modi and Ganapathi over email.
Four years ago, Modi was running a film-based chat on Twitter, aimed at the UK audience. He contacted Ganapathi and Rahul, whom he knew via social media, about starting a book chat. “We try to understand what makes the (books or authors) tick, what makes them popular or controversial, etc,” explain the duo.
What started with a handful of participants has grown into a 7,294-strong community. And sometimes, these conversations have resulted in strong connections with rather oddly named handles. “I have made loads of friends: @Italophilia, @Sonalathnikar, @readin_glasses, @thephotodiary, @avirandom,” says @Pallavisms (Pallavi Kamat), who works with a private bank in Mumbai. “For a socially awkward person like myself, (this virtual club) gives a platform to share my thoughts with like-minded people from all over the country,” adds @thephotodiary_(Ipshita Sengupta), a postgraduate student from Delhi University.