SEARCH

Books » Columns

Updated: May 17, 2013 20:05 IST
BOOK WISE

Paradise regained

Latha Anantharaman
Comment   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Photo: Sushanta Patronobish
The Hindu Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

A street full of bookshops smartens up even a dowdy little town

Once Woody Allen has celebrated all the maximum cities, he may one day release a film titled Ernakulam, You’re Not Half Bad. I’d like to beat him to it in my more modest medium. Ernakulam is not far from home, and it’s still the kind of town in which I can walk anywhere I need to go. But I’d always considered it Fort Kochi’s dowdy, almost squalid sister till we recently visited to see the Biennale. One evening, as we were looking for Marine Drive, we found a book fair just opposite the Press Club. I have fingered my way through miles of rickety tables at book sales but here the books were meticulously organised, so I had a tall pile of purchases in no time. Better yet, the book fair was a permanent thing, attached to the Blossoms book shop upstairs (no relation to Blossoms in Bangalore).

On that trip I had already found more books than usual in Fort Kochi, starting with a good stall at Aspinwall House, one of the star gallery spaces of the Biennale. Pepper House, another Biennale stop, had a proper book shop next to its cafe, unnamed but evidently more permanent than the art exhibits. Close to the synagogue in Jew Town was Idiom, which has always had an excellent collection of Indica. Collections of books on art and culture are often tucked among the cafes and antique shops near Mattanchery, for the benefit of sunburned tourists in floaty shreds of crinklewear.

But Ernakulam clearly has its own dedicated readers. The Eloor Lending Library branch here has been around since 1979. It started on Marine Drive and shifted about 20 years ago to its present spot on the corner of Press Club Road and Market Road.

It has more than 10,000 members, according to K.S. Sabu, the manager. Among them are many doctors, he says, and they seem to like medical thrillers. (Imagine, doctors with time to read novels.) He admits children aren’t reading the way they used to. On the day I went, in the middle of vacation, there were no kids browsing the library’s excellent variety of science and nature books, comics, and literature light and serious. For adults the shelves offer literature, crime fiction and law-abiding fiction, and dedicated sections for art, sci fi, poetry, plays, psychology, philosophy, yoga, romance, home decor, horror and chicken soup.

Between Eloor and Blossoms are several more book shops along Press Club Road, Shanta, Janatha, and other shelf-lined caves of welcome darkness on a blazing afternoon. Some sell the usual combination of textbooks and water bottles, others offer good reads at affordable prices or for borrowing.

Every Indian city ought to mitigate its mosquitoes, dust and bus horns with a few leafy streets lined with book shops and ending in a serene lending library. Having had no luck in Delhi or Chennai, I never thought to find all that in this small town, but it is here, it is here, it is here.

RELATED NEWS

What Anon SaidOctober 18, 2013

Win WinOctober 4, 2013

Mofussil milestoneJuly 12, 2013

The Good MorrowJune 28, 2013

Laughs lastJune 14, 2013

Enough about meMay 31, 2013

Out of the woodsMay 3, 2013

Summer readingApril 19, 2013

Isolation and imaginationApril 5, 2013

Pulp crawlingMarch 22, 2013

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

The Hindu presents the all-new Young World

Amandeep Sandhu, Manjul Bajaj, Manu Joseph and Sonora Jha read from their novels that were shortlisted for The Hindu Prize for Fiction 2013. Ziya Us Salam introduces them and moderates the session. <... »



O
P
E
N

close

Recent Article in Columns

Noorul Hasan deserves a lot of credit for bringing to lovers of literature the pen of Meena Kumari

Beauty and the pen

As a little boy, I grew up on the legend of Meena Kumari. Almost everybody had words of praise for her craft and beauty, almost everybod... »