No young takers for this niche library

No young takers for this niche library


Bustling with activity and cultural programmes specific to Bengal and Bengalis, Chittaranjan Park in South Delhi has for long been considered a ‘mini Kolkata’.

It also has the Kali Mandir Society often referred to by the locals as Kali Bari. Built on a small hill, this is a primarily a temple complex but also houses the Community Cultural Center. The complex started with a Shiv temple, which still stands within the complex but now the larger shrines are dedicated to Kali and Radha-Krishna. Over the years it has remained an important centre of convergence for the local community during Durga Puja festivities.

Renowned for their love of reading and academia, the Bengalis as a community pride themselves on their love for literature and poetry. But the little library, named after Ramkrishna Paramhansa, which nestles in the premises of the temple complex does not boast of young readership nor has been successful in promoting love for literature or literary texts amongst the young Bengalis. Run by Purnima Das who is assisted by Shivnath Chakravarty, a specially abled person, the library subscribes to all possible major newspapers including renowned Bengali ones like the Anandabazar Patrika, Bortomaan, Proti Din, Aajkaal and even Statesman’s Bengali edition. Not only that, the library also keeps magazines like Khela, Desh, Phire Dekha, Shaptahik Bortoman. Even rare editions of works by Kalidasa are available for those interested. But unfortunately not may people are interested.

This air-conditioned library, which started in 1985, manages to draw only senior citizens. “We don’t get too many readers as this library is part of the mandir. Besides, nobody reads Bengali books now,” rues Purnima. “This library has not been successful in promoting Bengali literature. The fact is, children don’t come here to read at all. They all study in public schools and do not have any Bengali subject. So, we only have one section for children’s reading. The senior citizens on the other hand, come here during their leisure time, which is normally evenings. They enjoy browsing through so many different newspapers.”

Of its total collection of about 25,000 books, about 80 per cent is Bengali fiction. Among others, it also keeps books by Sunil Ganguly, Buddhadeb Ghosh and many others. The library started out keeping only religious books and that remains its USP. “We get maximum readers for our religious collection. We have books on Ramakrishna Pramahansa, Ma Sharada, the Bhagavad Gita, books on Hinduism, the Upanishads and on the Vedas,” shares Purnima. Though the library also has books on literary criticism, drama by Utpal Dutt and contemporary Bengali poets, it is not adding to its collection at the moment.

With reading habits going down, it is no surprise that the Ramakrishna library too has suffered in its wake. Despite its very low rates - even at Rs 50 as annual security for lifetime members and the annual membership for Rs 100, there are hardly
any takers.

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