The Bookwallah is Asialink Arts’ roving international writers festival, taking five writers across India and Australia by train.
In November 2012 two Australian and three Indian writers toured the cities and towns of Southern India, on the hunt for stories, conversations and connections.
The tour began on stage at the Mumbai LitFest, paused for events in Goa, Bangalore and Chennai, and finished in Pondicherry on the South-East coast. The writers stopped to discuss their latest books and meet readers. They shared ideas with local writers, artists and fellow travellers, and walked each city on foot.
The writers were accompanied by unique luggage: a portable, pop-up library, filled with hundreds of Australian books. The hand-made library packs away in minutes into six kangaroo-leather bound travelling cases, ready for transporting on the trains.
The library popped up everywhere from the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, through to Platform 9 of the Chennai Central Railway station. City by city the library shed its books: 1000 Australian books were donated to universities and local libraries along the way.
With the library empty, the cases have been restocked with the best of Indian literature, and in 2013, Bookwallah returns to tour Australia. The first chapter opens with an exhibition in the Cowen Gallery at The State Library of Victoria in partnership with Melbourne Writers Festival, welcoming Annie Zaidi, Chandrahas Choudhury, Benjamin Law and Kirsty Murray. From here, the writers will traverse the East Coast, from Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney, by train.