When I first heard the news, I was shell-shocked. It came almost like a death-toll! I was in the hospital, recuperating from my accident, idly glancing through the newspapers. It was then that the front page report in Kerala Kaumadi caught my glance:
തിരുവനന്തപുരത്തെ ബ്രിട്ടീഷ് ലൈബ്രറി അടച്ചുപൂട്ടല് ഭീഷണിയില്!
(The British Library in Thiruvananthapuram facing closure)
Panicked, I read through the entire report only to perceive that the decision was confirmed, and the library had stopped issuing new memberships with immediate effect. Added with the pangs of a broken clavicle, I felt a surge of depression storm from within. The damage was complete yesterday, when Mr TK Subramoni, the Librarian, officially closed it down.
I’ve been a regular visitor to the library for over 14 years. My dad took his personal membership in ’89, when he was a part-time student of MBA at College of Engineering, Trivandrum. Thus began a long-standing association with the library. Thanks to its humongous collection of perfectly-sorted books, my dad passed out, topping his class and the university, alike! Dad’s penchant for management books often found me tugging along to the air-conditioned enviorns of the erstwhile palace, which was leased to the British Council to be used as the library in the early ’40s. At that time, there was no children’s section in the library. Ergo, while dad spent hours fishing for management books, I gingerly browsed through magazines and newspapers from the UK (though I didn’t understand a word of them!). Occasionally, my father would borrow videotapes, which left me glued to the TV for long…
By the time I was in the fourth grade and I could decipher the language in a passable manner, I started selecting volumes on my own from the ‘Fiction’ section. It introduced me to a whole new world of books. If I have any prowess in language today, a lion’s share of credit goes to the BL. It made me a bibliophile, a die-hard one, that is. The BL gave me the first Harry Potter, got me acquainted with geniuses like Isaac Asimov and Hari Kunzru, not to mention countless other authors (whose names I ostensibly forgot!). Even the first piece of erotic literature I had the privilege to feast my eyes upon, owes credit to the British Library! The library played a significant role in making me a tech-geek. Laura Lemay’s enthusing book on HTML made me a guru in just a couple of 24 hours! Countless other books on VB, Flash, Windows et al which completed my geek-ification.
I lost touch with the library after my tenth grade, thanks to my dad refusing to renew his membership. (“ഓരോ വര്ഷവും 1000 രൂപ മുടക്കാന് ഇവിടെ എന്താ പണം കായ്ക്കുന്ന മരം ഉണ്ടോ?“, my stingy dad retorted to my pleas!) Still, I used to peep in once in a while, accompanying my cousin who lived at statue or borrowing her card. Using some precious savings from work and thanks to a generous help by my cousin (love you, sis!), I rejoined BL in late-July, last year.
The last six months I’d spent in the library were the most memorable ones, I would say. Boring classes, saw me scooting college to spend hours at the library(which was hardly a walk away from my college) poring over Jeffrey Archers and Isaac Asimovs. It was then that I realized how academically conducive the atmosphere in the library was! I could spend hours reading a book on Discrete Mathemtics here, while I’d end up snoring loudly doing that at home! When I had net-access restrictions at home, posts like this were born in the swanky PCs there. Often, the BL also paved way for rendezvous with my girlfriend! 😉 Whenever both of us were free, we’d go on a date at the British, cuddling together, arm-in-arm, talking in hush-hush voices; all in the pretext of reading books! All those days now remain precious memories, never to be relinquished!
Thanks to all those petitions, both online and offline, and a hands-on approach by the chief minister himself, the survival of the vast array of books has some, if not huge, hope. It remains to be seen whether the Government would manage the newly-acquired library efficiently. Anyhow, no new library (or any existing one) can EVER replace the erstwhile queen of ’em all! (at least in Trivandrum)
Will miss ye badly! 🙁