C. Krishnamurthy, who joined the store in 1959, is retiring today

In the late 1960s or early 1970s – he doesn’t remember when – a woman had selected five or six expensive books and brought them to cash counter for billing at the Higginbothams book store, which is in the brick red heritage building on the Commissioner’s Road here.

As a counter clerk, constantly scared of committing a mistake and losing his job, he had checked and re-checked the prices mentioned on the books before making the total. Only when handing over the bill and collecting the money did he realise that the customer was the then popular heroine and the present Chief Minister Jayalalithaa .

C. Krishnamurthy, now the manager of the book store, told The Hindu that though the past was hazy, some incidents were vivid as though they happened just a few days ago. Mr. Krishnamurthy is retiring on Wednesday (April 30).

He joined the book store in 1959 for a salary of Rs. 50, after completing his SSLC in the Municipal High School. In 1973, he became the branch manager. Pointing out that before the advent of television and computers, when reading was very popular, the book store was a must-visit destination.

Then academic books were in great demand and most of them were priced only between Rs. 10 and Rs. 20. The dictionary published by the English Language Publishing Society for Rs. 20 was very popular.

Comics were also sought after. “But while in those days the parents decided the books for the kids, today the children who come to book store are rarely accompanied by parents”.

The book store moved into the heritage building in 1948, Mr. Krishnamurthy said. Among the regular customers were the Maharaja of Mysore and the Maharaja of Porbandhar. A number of foreigners, particularly the British, also patronised it. He vividly remembers a few tricks which he learnt from these patrons. “They told me that salesmen should button their coats while attending customers.”

For the loyal customers, who aged with time, Mr. Krishnamurthy made sure the books were still accessible. For those who could not walk up to the store, the dedicated manager carried the books to them. “I used to carry what they wanted as they waited in their car,” he added.

In his long career, he had conducted exhibitions and sometimes bullock carts were used to carry books. Ooty advocate R. Sundar, who is a regular customer, said the book store which was a landmark would not be the same without Mr. Krishnamurthy. He deserved a “To Sir With Love” farewell.

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