When directed to his house, we were told that Y.M. Balakrishna, honorary secretary of the Indian Institute of World Culture (IIWC), lived in a “haveli” that “could not be missed”. And, sure enough, the 1939 bungalow in Basavanagudi was a sight to behold with its spacious front yard and imposing structure.

“My father built this house because he believed that an east facing house would be lucky. Those days, land prices were relatively low and affordable,” recalls the octogenarian.

Established in 1945, the IIWC holds cultural programmes in its two auditoriums, as well as art and bhajan classes for children. Its library has nearly 80,000 titles, while the children's library has close to 20,000 titles and a separate science section.

Booked by libraries

Although he was appointed secretary of IIWC only in 1985, Balakrishna knows its history like the back of his hand, regaling us with stories even before we asked.

Balakrishna narrates the story of his association with libraries. Having been a State-level badminton player, he was part of several clubs around Bangalore.

“During my free time, I would frequently visit the libraries of those clubs. Eventually, they liked me so much that they put me in charge of them,” he quips.

He laments that maintenance of a library today has become quite difficult. “You need two things to run a successful library — dedicated librarians and responsible members. People carelessly tear pages; sometimes don't even return borrowed books. Parents play a crucial role in instilling the love for books and a sense of responsibility among children.”

Technology and reading

Talking of the technological changes influencing reading habits, he says, “I think children still much prefer reading a real book rather than in its electronic form, even though computerisation has made life easier in other ways.”

Having been a research assistant at the Indian Institute of Science and then the head of research and development at MICO (Bosch) during his lifetime, he appreciates the technological developments that have occurred thus far.

Ask him what he does in his free time, he says, “I have no free time. My tablet computer keeps me busy.”

Cultural programmes at the IIWC see significant attendance. However, the audience is restricted, says the secretary. “You don't see a young man attending lectures on Upanishads or energy. But these are topics that are quite relevant in today's world and the youth need to become aware of it.”

He also introduced us to his elder brother, the well known humorist Y.M.N. Murthy. While lighthearted humour and witty remarks by the brothers punctuated our conversation, a deeper understanding of life was evident in it.

The best thing about Yediyur for Balakrishna is its people. “The spirit of the people and the familiarity makes you never want to leave the place.”

Keywords: public library

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