Bengaluru loses two legendary booksellers

T S Shanbhag, owner of the much loved Premier Book Shop, and PuVyaSri, itinerant literature evangelist, are no more
Last Updated 17 August 2021, 08:16 IST

The literary community in Bengaluru is poorer, with two of its beloved booksellers succumbing to old age and illness this past fortnight.

T S Shanbhag, owner of the famed Premier Book Shop, died on May 4. The 84-year-old was suffering from an infection and then tested positive for Covid-19.

Shanbhag was popular among all kinds of book lovers, and his long list of admirers included playwright Girish Karnad, politician George Fernandes and actor Kamal Haasan.

Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted, “I owe much of my education (such as it is) to books bought at his Premier Bookshop. My wife and I both grew up reading books bought from Mr Shanbhag and Premier, and so did our children. His warmth and kindliness did not preclude a mischievous sense of humour.”

Started in 1971 on Church Street, Premier Book Shop, had books stacked in every possible corner and was a literature lover’s delight. Shanbhag was the first bookseller in the city to offer unsolicited discounts.

“We learnt the concept from him. He was the first to give a 20 per cent discount on all books in 1978,” says Krishna Gowda, owner of Bookworm.

When the rent became unaffordable and Premier shut down in 2009, Gowda bought a huge chunk of books from Shanbhag. “He was aware of customers’ tastes,” he says.

After retirement, Shanbhag continued reading and sharing books with his friends and family and would often visit bookshops in the M G Road area.

“Up until the pandemic, he would often drop by or call me for books he wanted for his daughter and grandchildren,” says Gowda.

In 2016, Bookworm hosted a chat with the Shanbhag, and the session saw Guha and Chiranjiv Singh, former ambassador to Unesco, in the audience. “Many of his customers often asked me about him. We all deeply missed his presence, which is why I organised the event,” says Gowda.

Mobile bookseller

On April 19, book lovers heard news about the passing of U S Srinivasan, better known as PuVyaSri. That name is short for Pustaka Vyapari Srinivasan, or ‘bookseller Srinivasan’. The 88-year-old passed away in his sleep, said a representative of the All India Trade Union Congress, of which he was a member.

PuVyaSri, Bengaluru’s first and only mobile bookseller, has donated his body for research. In half a century of bookselling, he did not buy even a small space for his trade. Instead, he carried books to people’s homes and workplaces. He was perennially on the move, either on foot or by public transport, meeting book lovers across the city.

According to an Outlook article, his mobile shop opened at 6 in the morning and shut by 11 am, when the sun got harsh. In those five hours, he would deliver books to his buyers, and transactions invariably took place over a cup of filter coffee.

PuVyaSri insisted he only had friends, and no customers. His network ranged from litterateurs to scientists and politicians. Authors Bhisham Sahni and K S Duggal, space scientist Satish Dhawan, theatre artistes Fritz Bennewitz and B V Karanth, Justice E S Venkataramaiah, filmmakers M S Sathyu, M V Krishnaswamy and Girish Kasaravalli, communist leader Inderjit Gupta and former chief minister Devaraj Urs were among many who bought books from him., the Outlook article further stated.


T S Shanbhag ran Premier Book Shop on Church Street for close to five decades —from 1971 to 2009.

PuVyaSri stocked his books at his house, and carried out his mobile bookselling trade from 6 to 11 am. He was active for five decades.

(Published 06 May 2021, 18:03 IST)

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