Exactly 37 years ago, on November 11, 1976, Nagashri Book House came into existence in the then newly-constructed Jayanagar Shopping Complex. It was started by a friend Srikanta Murthy, but was later taken over by Prasad and Venkatesh, who have been running it meticulously for nearly four decades now.
“We had to pay a huge rent of Rs. 440 in those days and it seemed impossible to make two ends meet,” recalls Prasad. “Books were cheap, and buyers were few. We survived because we also sold stationary and educational books in those years. If at all we made Rs. 100, I used to call Venkatesh that very minute and share the happiness with him.” Then all their energies were invested in keeping the business afloat, now they’ve come to a stage when money making is an impossible dream. “However, making money was never our prime motive. We stopped selling stationary and educational books because we wanted to better things,” explains Prasad.
In those days, Jayanagar was empty. You were lucky if you saw someone on the road once in an hour. Boys and girls used to stand behind the pillars in the corridors of the complex and speak to each other in great difficulty. “The values of those days were different. Yet, there was a liveliness and energy to this place. Now it’s loud and merciless,” says Prasad, with the bookstore sandwiched between shops that scream consumerism.
The benches of Fourth Block brought people from every walk of life for a leisurely evening chat. “Film stars like Maanu, Srinath, C.R. Simha, then teachers like Kiram and several others used to visit our store regularly. They would hang around for hours talking to us, and then it would continue on those benches. We have learnt a lot from them… I can’t tell you how many people have spent much of their lives on these benches…,” he reminiscences fondly. Prasad remembers how people would buy ticket at the then Poonam theatre and hang around in the bookshop till it was movie time. “We used to wait for it.”
The changing landscape of the city has definitely impacted people’s attitude and behaviour. “Nobody has the patience to spend time in a bookshop. They store the name of the book in their phone memory, show it to us, buy the book, and leave in two minutes. Business ends there. Whereas we, have grown with people who have cared to build a relationship with us and have spent their time here. People have gone abroad, but when they are visiting they surely come to meet us,” he explains.
“We definitely miss old Bangalore. Not merely for its peace and quiet, but for all its values…,” says Prasad.
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