Bangalore or Bengaluru as it is now known is the place I was born and grew up in. This is the place that has made me into what I am today. Although I stay away from Bangalore, some 1300 miles, my heart is still there, locked in the chambers of memory.
I visit Bangalore quite often. What I love about this city amongst others is the old-world charm that it has been able to retain despite the invasion of information technology and the many immigrants that it brought along with the IT boom. Even till date there are several places in Bangalore that have stood the test of time, eateries that will turn a century in a few years, yet one of the best, markets that have existed for ever, temples that are ever-holy & charming.
However, today I want to write about something even more special than these. In the era of Amazon, the Gupta Circulating Library (GCL) has survived and that to me is a legend in itself!
Only a ten-year-old boy, GRJ Gupta started the circulating Library with his brother to support his big family of brothers and sisters almost 65 years ago when his father passed away!
“We were six sisters and three brothers,” says GRJ Gupta, now 75 years old. “We did not have anyone to support the family. So, my brother, GRP Gupta, and I decided to start a library-cum-newspaper agency. In 1952, this seemed like the best thing we could do,” he adds.
It was started in Sampige road in Bangalore’s Malleshwaram although it used to be much bigger back then, than it is now. People of Bangalore would come to GCL from far and near to borrow books. Even though the walls have aged, the service offered by Gupta and his wife remains stellar! If you are a regular, you will most likely be greeted and addressed by your name and Gupta will go on chatting with you about your, children and travels! He still maintains the records of the library in his Large-Old-Green Ledger book. The Library has books in several regional languages as well as English.
Recalling a few prominent personalities who are members of his library, Gupta says that the former President of India, VV Giri and his family members would visit his Library to borrow Telugu language books.
“In 1965, VV Giri was the Governor of Karnataka. He and his family used to visit my library for Telugu novels,” Gupta recalls.
“People from Chennai, Mangaluru and Manipal would come all the way to visit the library. They would come once in a month and borrow books. When I started the library, the membership fee was 50 paisa. The cost for borrowing a book was 50 paisa,” he says.
Today the membership is a mere Rs. 400 and the cost of borrowing the book is about 10% of the cost of the book.
“It’s only me and my wife Parimala who run the place now. We thought of closing it because not many people come here as they used to back then. Now people have libraries on their mobile phones right? But I couldn’t close it down. It’s what I have done all my life and I cannot give it up,” Gupta adds.
My father used to be a member of GCL for the longest time when he lived in Malleshwaram, he recalls that one of his favourite novels – The Guide by R.K. Narayan was borrowed from there.
Now which of you would like the membership of this charming old Library?
Image Credits: THE NEWS MINUTE