Premier Book Shop’s Shanbhag goes down memory lane

T.S. Shanbagh, owner of the erstwhile Premier Book Shop, visited Bookworm to share his experiences with booklovers in Bengaluru on Saturday.— Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.  

A few years ago, a visit to one of the most famous bookstores in the city was not just about immersing oneself in the latest book collection or perhaps, the thrill of scouring for an old edition, but also the chance of “meeting the premier”.

Though the legendary Premier Book Shop closed in 2009, Saturday saw scores of bibliophiles gathering to meet its owner, T. Sarvotham Shanbhag, at Bookworm on Church Street.

The 77-year-old, who had started the shop in 1971, was invited by Bookworm to ‘catch up with booklovers’.

Those in attendance included historian Ramachandra Guha and the former Unesco ambassador Chiranjeev Singh.

“I grew up visiting Premier Book Shop where the choice was diverse and confusing. Shanbhag being the book-curator could accurately dig into the heap of books and pull out the book he recommended or which we wanted,” recalls Sunil Aravindam, an IT employee who attended the programme.

The shop also became the subject of a documentary, ‘Shanbhag’s Shop’ by U.S.-based Asha Ghosh, which was screened at festivals in San Francisco, New York and Dallas.

Over the years, it saw the patronage of Mr. Guha, playwright Girish Karnad, politician George Fernandes and even actor Kamal Hassan.

Given Mr. Shanbhag’s quiet disposition, questions posed by booklovers were answered in unassuming one-liners.

How did he feel bidding adieu to Premier’s collection of nearly 5 lakh books?

“I gave them all at 60 per cent discount. Change is a part of life. I was already 70 when I closed shop, so why feel emotional?” he says, adding that with the popularity of online retailers increasing, the “offline” shop needed younger minds to run it.

Eventually, an exponential increase in the rent on Church Street saw the shop closing in 2009. “I even gave away the name board and some old furniture to a scrap dealer. Only intangible memories have heritage value, not the tangible accessories,” he says.

Krishna Gowda of Bookworm said the programme was organised for old times’ sake to reminisce upon an important piece of Bengaluru’s literary history.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 4:14:42 PM |

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