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Updated: February 27, 2013 16:34 IST

A myriad books in multiple languages

Shruthi Rao
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Still popular: Over 60 years on, Gupta Circulating Library in Malleswaram may have reduced in size, but it continues to offer a range of magazines in four languages and the latest bestsellers. Photo: S. Mohan Prasad
The Hindu Still popular: Over 60 years on, Gupta Circulating Library in Malleswaram may have reduced in size, but it continues to offer a range of magazines in four languages and the latest bestsellers. Photo: S. Mohan Prasad

Established in 1952, Gupta Circulating Library has regulars who have been coming there for decades

Gupta Circulating Library, a landmark in Malleshwaram, has endured for over 60 years.

Established in 1952, the library had over 50,000 books and 1,000 members in its heyday, besides being a thriving newspaper agency. They don’t deal in newspapers anymore, and though the library has shrunk, it remains popular in a city where circulating libraries are becoming a vanishing breed.

The owner, G.R.J. Gupta, says he was just 10 years old when his father died, leaving behind 9 children. With his 12-year-old brother, Gupta started the library and newspaper agency to make ends meet. Working from 5 a.m. to midnight, attending school in between, theirs is a remarkable story of grit and hard work: they earned enough to enable their siblings to settle down well.

Built book by book

But how did these young boys know enough about books to build an entire library? “I learnt about identifying good books and magazines on the job,” says Gupta. Initially, the library had magazines in eight languages — one of the reasons it was so popular.

People of various linguistic backgrounds lived in Bangalore, and this library was their only source for books and magazines in their language.

Multiple generations

Now, with 60-70 magazines in four languages, and new bestsellers coming in every month, Gupta has kept the library up-to-date.

This is why several of his customers — such as Sundari, who says she has been visiting the library for 35 years, and Padma, an octogenarian who has been visiting for more than 40 years — have been regulars for decades.

“My library has served four generations,” says Gupta.

Narayanachar comes to the library all the way from Basaveshwaranagar. He says, “There is no other circulating library near my place. I like reading magazines on various topics, but can’t afford to buy so many. Not even government libraries offer so many titles in multiple languages. This is my only option.”

Fading pastime?

“Older people prefer magazines,” says Gupta’s wife, Pramila, who has been helping at the library for years. “Young children borrow comics and books, but nowadays, they are losing the joy of reading.”

The business isn’t profitable any longer, says Gupta. “People are not interested in reading thanks to TV and the internet, and because of busy, mechanical lives. I am sustaining this only because I have been doing so for many years.”

Online libraries, which deliver books home, may be growing in popularity, but as the owner points out, “They are not within everybody’s reach.”

As for the future of his library, he says, “I don’t plan to expand. I will keep this up as long as I can. After that, it is not in my hands.”

But so long as the faithful bibliophiles of Malleswaram and surrounding areas continue to patronise the library, it promises to remain. As Gupta says, “I feel happy to think that I am fulfilling the reading desires of so many people.”

(Gupta Circulating Library is at 33, Sampige Road. Call 23364041)

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