The Bookbus: A Special Home

 

The Book Buses, both big and small, full of books for children, wouldn’t move an inch without Dalhang Tumbapo. Having always wanted to meet new people and share learning experiences with them, Dalhang Dai has long been interested in doing social work in the field of education. Dalhang dai became especially interested in applying to become a part of the book bus family on discovering that it was a mobile library that travelled around Nepal. And become a part of the family he did, having taken the Book Bus safely from Mechi in the East to Mahakali in the West since the 22nd of November, 2013. For almost six years, Dalhang dai has been taking care of each Book Bus as though it was his home.

Dalhang dai in fact does think of the Book Bus as his home, he says, because so many of his days are spent travelling on the Book Bus, even during major festivals. When travelling out of the valley, at least one instructor always accompanies him. Instructors aboard the Book Bus aren’t allowed to sleep on the road, since sleeping passengers tend to make Dalhang Dai drowsy. As a rule, we are tasked with entertaining Dalhang dai while he drives, keeping ourselves alert by helping ourselves to his store of the chhurpi, lemon, and hot chilli he always keeps on the bus. Not wanting the instructors to suffer unaided from the effects of hot chilli, and not wanting them to become dehydrated through the day, Dalhang dai always makes sure to remind us to carry a bottle of filtered water.

Besides the snacks and water for the instructors, Dalhang Dai also makes space in the bus to stock up on personal necessities, from toothpaste to formal clothes he might need for special occasions on the Book Bus trips. While he makes sure that the bus itself is safe from the elements, it is an imperative to Dalhang dai that his space inside the Book Bus be taken care of. All the books have to be arranged in neat rows on the bookshelves, the tables lined up to a side, the chairs folded. If he isn’t satisfied with the way the instructors have organized the space, Dalhang dai won’t hesitate to do it himself.

On a Book Bus trip with Dalhang Dai, it is impossible not to notice how active he is. He is very punctual every morning, pulling up with the Book Bus right on the dot. Once he has safely stationed the Book Bus outdoors and opened it for reading, he is always ready to tell visitors and curious onlookers all about the Book Bus, even handing out brochures and bookmarks. When old people ask him, who can read books from the Book Bus, he replies with a smile that anyone can read these books, that even he reads the books when he’s on the Book Bus. Dalhang dai invites these people to join the reading, even as he keeps himself busy with the children, helping them find books they might be looking for. Just like the way in which he takes care of the Book Bus and its instructors, Dalhang dai also takes care of the children who visit the Book Bus, making sure they find a comfortable place to sit down and read. Sometimes he becomes a kid himself while sitting with the children and talking about characters from the books.

Dalhang Dai enjoys going to different schools in the different parts of Nepal. He likes seeing new children getting excited about reading new books from the Book Bus. Whenever he sees the many happy faces of children, he feels proud to make this possible for them. Wherever he goes, he wants to inspire children to read books. While transporting the Book Bus, Dalhang Dai has met a lot of excited children who are keen to read, children from Surkhet, Dhangadhi, Dhankuta, Gorkha, Palpa, Ghorahi, Lamahi, Baglung, Beni, Lumbini, Nawalparasi, Chitwan, Udayapur, Janakpur, Biratnagar, Dharan, Damak, Jhapa, Illam, Kavre, Nuwakot, Dhading, Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Birgunj, Pokhara, Hetauda, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, and Kathmandu.

These children think that the picture of the man, Martin Luther King Jr, covering a side of the Book Bus, is a picture of Dalhang dai. They ask him, “Where did you get such a huge Bus?” “What is the price for the Book Bus?” “How come we haven’t seen another big bus with books inside it before?” Children always say to Dalhang dai, “Please come back again, hai, Dalhang dai.”

Dalhang dai is a very simple person. Since the arrival of the Book Bus project in Nepal, Dalhang dai has been the only driver the Book Bus has ever known. Dalhang dai takes special pride in this. He loves his work, and is always delighted to hear glowing reviews from teachers, students, and the community, wherever he takes it. He himself finds the Book Bus exemplary in inspiring young kids to read. He loves meeting a variety of people from all over Nepal, all around the year. And, having become as comfortable in the cared for spaces as he would be in his own home, Dalhang Dai loves both of the Book Buses.

Deepa is a poet with the Word Warriors and an instructor with the Book Bus who travelled from Surkhet to Kathmandu to join the QC team. 

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