The almost obscure Muslim Library in Shivajinagar
Among the many secrets that lie tucked away in the many lanes around Shivajinagar is the Muslim Library. It is so obscure and the entrance so narrow that one can easily miss it if you are not watching out for it. A narrow flight of stairs leads to the dusty bookshelves where hundreds upon hundreds of Arabic, Persian and Urdu books are neatly arranged in several racks. The library was started in May 1912 and will be celebrating its centenary next year. Started by a group of Muslim intellectuals who felt the need for a public space, its early trustees included Mahmood Khan Mahmood, the noted author of the most authoritative history of Tipu Sultan in Urdu — Saltanat-e-Khudadad.
“The library has seen glorious days,” says Abdul Karim, who is a trustee of the library. That is hard to believe when you look at the state of malaise that seems to linger in the library, but a look at the list of visitors is impressive. Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the famous poet and scholar, and Josh Malihabadi, the passionate Urdu poet, were some of the star visitors in its early years.
Siddique Alduri, senior journalist with Salar, the city's leading Urdu newspaper said: “This library is unique in Bangalore and it has very rare and old books in Urdu. Research students frequently visit the library. The sad part is that this invaluable part of our city's heritage is not recognised because of the general state of Urdu.” Alduri has hit the nail on the head. The number of people who are literate in Urdu has declined considerably, and so a library of Urdu books will also be marginalised.
There has been a desire to move the library from its current location to a more prominent building, but there is lack of funds as the library is managed privately. The library has several hundred members and it has a regular stream of readers. It forms a part of Bangalore's history and is still an important reading space, but will it manage to attract a younger generation of readers?