September 28, 2023

Nagaland: Two brothers spread love of reading; open community library 

Away from the hustle of town lies the Kigwema Village in Nagaland, 15km away south of the state capital Kohima, where two Naga brothers have come up with a special and significant initiative in creating a Community Library. The self-funded initiative was undertaken by Akho Phira and his brother Thepfukelie Phira and the library was formally opened to the public on July 23, 2021.

Talking to ANI, 27-year-old Akho Phira, who is currently working at the Centre for Research in Schemes and Politics, Meghalaya, said that the concept behind the community library came up when he made a normal conversation with his elder brother, Thepfukelie. The idea just clicked with the two of us, he says. Phira said that both of them are avid readers, and it was just after the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that they wanted to do something for the community. They wanted to revive the “dying culture of reading” and make book resources easily accessible through this initiative. He also said that people from all walks of life come to the community library for their study materials and research.

“It’s going to be two years now since we started and we have achieved two major milestones “, Akho said as they have been able to start two similar modules in another village under Phek district, Nagaland. Recalling the first day, Akho said that they started with a very handful of books from their own personal collections and a few contributions from close friends, however, gradually they started receiving books from the Department of Art and Culture and Forest Department, Nagaland, and with time they started receiving books from Pune, Goa, Bangalore and companies. “One of the recent support received was from Goonj Assa,” he added.

Akho Phira also informed that the place (community library) has a significant connotation as it is one of the typical places of the Angami Nagas. Stating that it is called ‘Nepi Tsekhwe’ (in local dialect), where ‘Nepi’ connotes the name of one of the forefathers in whose honour the raised circular seating platform was erected in the olden days, and ‘Tsekhwe’ refers to the circular seating structure. The space also has a significant history attached to it, he said, stating that in the olden days people come for informal discussions, and gatherings and would make public announcements, and as narrated by elders, during the Second World War, the Britishers used the space for keeping tanks and artillery beside the structure, and use the space as a vantage point as it provided a very clear birds eye view of the neighbouring villages and districts even far-flung villages under Phek District. “This place is very special to the Angami’s in particular”, he said. Further, Akho says “Community and the innovative library is not new thing but it is the persistence and consistency which one keeps following, it is the habit which we keep on inculcating which is actually making our work successful and we actually intend to keep working on it. At the same time, motivate more youngsters not only to keep reading but also to come up with more innovations in future.” (ANI)