Sushil Kumar's Blog

straight from my heart and soul

Bharti Bhawan Library

It’s my 100th post, so I have to write about my first love… er love for books.

I owe my reading habit to Allahabad’s ‘Bharti-Bhawan Library’ which was once a hub for freedom fighters. Next month I will go to Allahabad and click few pics and will add to this post. Bharti-Bhawan Library is small but beautiful library now situated amidst busy market of Loknath, Chowk where I read loads of gems of Indian literature two decades back.

To enter this library you have to tread your way on bull’s shit (not bullshit), I fondly remember that I had to stand my bicycle on heap of bull’s shits for months. And yes, bulls and cows are treated as very sacred animals in Hindu mythology and even calling them animal is sometimes blasphemous, so that is not a big issue.

It is the place where I got acquainted with the literary world of Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyay (it’s really amusing that I typed his name minus any mistake) and his novella Parinita, Kabir and his vast words which I found nowhere, Sharad Joshi and his Jeep par Sawar Illian (Leeches riding the Jeep), Harisankar Parsai’s satires, thought provoking articles of Taslima Nasreen and Osho.

This library has huge collection of rare manuscripts and neatly preserved Sanskrit-Hindi-Urdu books, it was established in 1889 by the joint efforts of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Mr. Bal Krishna Bhatt.

You can get a glimpse of this library in the beautiful poetry by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra from the book: Both Sides of the Sky, published by National Book Trust and edited by Eunice de Souza –

“Bharati Bhavan Library, Chowk, Allahabad”

A day in 1923.
The reading room is full.
In pin-drop silence,
Accountants, homoeopaths,
Petty shopkeepers, students, clerks
Turn the pages
Of the morning papers.
At the issuing desk,
Some are borrowing books:
A detective novel in Urdu
In two volumes;
A free translation
Of a poem by Goldsmith
Printed in Etawah,
Titled Yogi Arthur.

The books
Are still on the shelves,
Their pages brittle
And spines missing.
New readers occupy the chairs,
Turning the pages
Of the morning papers.
Turning pages too,
But of dusty records
In a back room,
Is a researcher from Cambridge, England.
It’s her second visit,
And everyone here knows her.
She’s looking at Indian reading habits
In the colonial period.

Outside,
On the pavement,
Is a thriving vegetable market.
Amidst the stalls,
A knife-grinder sets up
His portable establishment
And opens for business.

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