It all started last year in the month of March, when Aisha Esbhani from Pakistan, looked up at her bookshelf. She realised that all the books that she had read till now, have been the ones that were written by authors from US or UK. She felt an imbalance out there, and thought that she should do something about this. She then searched the internet and read about Ann Morgan, who was the first person to have read books from all countries. Taking inspiration from her journey and her blog, Aisha set out on a mission, that would take her to every country of the world through the medium of literature.
When she was all of 12 years, Aisha decided that she would read books written by authors of all the countries of the world. So, she started a Facebook page regarding her Project. When she told her parents about this decision, they were more excited than her. Even though her parents were never too much into reading, they had inculcated a habit of reading in Aisha, and when she decided to take up this unique journey, she received their full support.
During childhood, Aisha’s mother would bring her fairy tales and fantasy stories, and self-admittedly Aisha was not much into reading till her brother gave her the book, Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. There was something in either it’s genre or the fact that it had so many books in the series, and Aisha developed a love for reading, and there has been no looking since then. The series remain a memory which cannot be erased from the amazing reader’s heart that she has.
For a sweet little girl she is, the preference of her favourite genre is something that tells us that she is one strong girl, who has loads of courage to see the world even during tough times. You may be shocked to know this, but she likes military and war fiction best, and for that reason, some of her other favourite books are- In the Shadow of The Banyan (a child’s account of the war) and Girl at War. She told us, “Other than these, I would pick out Miguel Street- it’s humorous! A childhood favourite would be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, like who doesn’t like chocolate!”
Aisha was moving ahead, beautifully living her dream, when on the morning of 6th December, things came crashing down for her. Facebook had deleted her account due to her age, and with that went the Facebook page, where she used to get recommendations and suggestions from people around the world and where she wrote the reviews of all the books that she kept on reading. She felt devastated, but her parents and family supported her and she again started her journey.
Aisha faced a setback, but she had never expected what came next. When she started her Facebook page, Reading Books From Every Country again, surprisingly, she got so many shares that in an hour, she gained more followers than she had with her previous account. All journeys do hit a roadblock, but journeys as beautiful and meaningful as these cannot be stopped. She started with renewed energy, understanding that life does throw challenges at us, but if we are determined, nothing can stop us.
If a journey has its low points, it also has some very memorable twists and turns as well. I asked her what her most memorable moment was, and she asked me whether she can tell more! So here is what she said about her most memorable moments, “I contact authors and publishers, asking if they know of any books from countries that do not have too much commercially available literature in English. Firstly, I had received a message from Robi Gottlieb, an author from Luxembourg! He was willing to courier me his book and just a few days later, it was in my hands. Armida Publications from Cyprus sent me a book too! Another moment I would remember forever is when I got a message from Allison Charette. So far, Madagascar has no novel published in English. Charette is currently translating one and since the publication process is going to take time, she is sending me an unpublished version of the book next month! For Comoros, I couldn’t seem to find any book in English. Then, I heard of Anis Memon who had translated a novel but it was never published. I contacted him but there was no reply. A little time later, I got in touch with his friend and he sent me the unpublished translation, “The Kaafir of Karthala”! I have been mentioned in Pakistan’s leading newspaper and will remember these moments forever!”
Isn’t the love and support that she is getting from all corners of the world simply great? It is like this young girl has brought so many people together to work for one cause. Seeing her bond the world so beautifully for a cause that is close to a young girl’s heart, makes us feel that the world is still a place where good-hearted people exist. There are still many who motivate others. But, would you not want to know who motivates and inspires Aisha?
Well, it is her grandma! Aisha says that though she is an old woman, her positive approach to the world leaves her astonished. She does not have a degree and nor has she completed her schooling, but her strong will to learn has always motivated Aisha to stay determined. Aisha added, “She keeps herself busy with charity work and her old age does not hinder her from achieving what she wants. I look up to her as I struggle and succeed, fail and win!”
So far Aisha has read books from almost 75 countries. She is someone who wants to read and learn as much as she can, so she has not put limitations on herself to read the books in a certain time frame or to read only one book from a country. She has read many books from the same country as well. Her basic goal is to read at least one book from all the countries recognised by the UN plus Scotland, Taiwan and Palestine. She will keep on reading even after at least one book from every country has been read, that is how passionate she is.
A journey as mind-blowing as this surely will have an effect which can change the traveller.’s personality Aisha too, has learnt so much from this journey. She says, “I have been connecting with so many people around the world because of this project. It has really helped me groom. I have become so confident ( I was always a shy kid) . I’ve learnt so much not only from people but also from the books. I can empathise more now and this quest has allowed me to handle multiple situations, deal with foreigners and strangers and yes, multitask. I have changed as a person.”
Aisha had the courage to take up such a huge goal, and the determination to keep going forward with this. But, she is quite young right now, and has a long way to go. She keeps a balanced focus on her studies and her reading, and as she grows day by day with a heart that still has many dreams, she keeps winning the heart of any person who comes in contact with her. When she is done reading authors from all the countries, she would love to give a TED Talk about it, and interview some of the authors whose books she has read!
We really hope that all her wishes do come true and she keeps on inspiring people the way she does now. We feel really happy to have chronicled her story on International Women’s Day because when a young girl sees a dream with such conviction and when the world gets together to make that dream come true, it makes us believe that we too can dream and if we give our 100% to it, then the Universe will come together to make things happen.
Thank You Aisha for taking up this journey, and for connecting the world to it and through it, for all this has restored our faith in humanity.