E-books, iPads and Kindles are slowly replacing traditional books. Vishnupriya Bhandaram meets a few bibliophiles from the city and finds hidden gems in their personal libraries with collections crossing over thousands
Augustine Birell, the English politician and essayist said that it is good to inherit a library, but it is better to collect one. You know those words ring true when you see theatre personality B.S. Prakash beaming with pride as he tells you about his eclectic collection of books. Take a step into B.S. Prakash’s home in Gagan Mahal and you’ll feel like you’ve been sucked into a Victorian time freeze. A staircase leads you to his library — which he reiterates is spread across his entire house. It’s intimidating to see more than 7000 books lined across numerous shelves, classified by author and genre. B.S. Prakash’s library boasts of a 300-year-old book, A Voyage Into The Levant (1718) by Henry Blount. He has a collection of Strand Magazines which include the first publication of The Adventure Of The Speckled Band (1892) by Arthur Conan Doyle. Much of the collection, Prakash says was his grandfather and father’s, but over the years, he has been adding to it. In his Telugu collection, B.S. Prakash has Sri Sri’s Mahaprasthanam, the first 500 copies of which were numbered and autographed by Sri Sri. B.S. Prakash’s copy is numbered 251. Prakash is fond of purchasing second hand books. “It’s nice to read what other people have read into,” he says. Prakash adds that most copies come along with letters buried in them or the reader’s notes. Book collection fosters a certain sense of possessiveness as well. Prakash says that he doesn’t lend books, “There are just a few people to whom I lend books,” he adds.
Adding to his collection is a tiny book which contains 18 chapters of Bhagwad Gita. B.S. Prakash struck a good bargain for that book as he bought it for Rs. 2 from a vegetable vendor in 1958. An inheritance he is proud of is the Sundarakanda on palmyra leaves. He shrugs and says, “It’s really old.” B.S. Prakash claims to have read about 60 percent of his collection.
Collector: Mother and daughter duo, Madhulika and Rani
Madhulika lives in the US but she says that her heart lies in Hyderabad. Madhulika has a collection of over 33000 books. Most of them are children’s books. With her collection, she decided to start a small neighbourhood library in Vengal Rao Nagar. Her mother, Rani has taken charge of the library for now. Madhulika explains that the idea stemmed out of a visit to India in 2010 when she saw her niece and nephew re-reading the books she got from the States. “I realised that our children are deprived of good children’s literature,” she says. Each time Madhulika came to India, she would pick up books. The list gradually increased to a thousand and then to thousands more. Madhulika says that her vision is to see a fully functional library in every neighbourhood. “It was a harsh reality that after the city has adapted so well to the western lifestyles filled with malls, McDonalds, KFCs, but children’s libraries are so rare, I am sure if my mom who hasn’t even finished her high school can work on opening a library, all of us can do our bit,” she adds.
Collector: Sridhar Sattiraju
Vice President of a multinational bank, Sridhar Sattiraju derives great comfort in flipping through heaps of books in his basement, preserved with passion. An avid collector, Sridhar’s 14000-odd book collection is maintained in an impeccably neat fashion.
His collection is a spread of fiction, non-fiction but is more or less dominated by finance and management books. Sridhar’s library is open for research students, who come regularly for references and to seek information.
“Book collection is a passion, I intend to bequeath to my progeny,” he says. Sridhar’s library has an extensive collection of The New Yorker magazines and E.B. White’s letters. “I go to any lengths to acquire a book,” he confesses. The Zurich Axioms is perhaps his most treasured book on financial wisdom. He believes that rare books appreciate in both value and perception. “Books are an obsession, that might keep my senility away,” he laughs. He feels that having a personal library makes him feel richer in thought. Sridhar has read about 80 percent of his collection.
Collector: Dr. Muddu Ramakrishna
Tucked away in the outer strands of the city in Uppal, Ramakrishna’s library is perhaps not as extensive, but speaks volumes of what a well-read man he is. An avid reader, Ramakrishna is enjoying his retirement in the warm company of books.
Especially interested in Religion and Philosophy, the shelves of the Muddu household have the Vedas, Buddhist texts, Islam texts and Sikh texts along with Radhakrishnan’s Indian philosophy, Bertrand Russell’s anthologies and Aldous Huxley’s works. Spread over two rooms in his house, the books are catalogued according to author. With over 4000 books in his collection, Ramakrishna is looking for more people to share this passion with. In his collection, he has Sigmund Freuds’ entire set of published works. He has a section on the cultural history of India and Osho. Ramakrishna is especially proud of his collection of Kabir’s literature.
With a keen interest in Art, Ramakrishna also has a collection of books on Renaissance Art. Having collected these books over 25 years, Ramakrishna takes good care of his treasure.