If there was one picture that could break the hearts of Bibliophiles all over, it would be that of a librarian outside a public library in Kerala, scanning through the books the recent floods destroyed. Outside Ernakulam district’s 85-year-old Chendamangalam public library, the photo of its librarian standing next to a heap of books dating back to the 19th century, has gone viral.
In an emotional post on Facebook, Krishnan Unni, a resident of the neighbourhood, says, “My grandfather, late KV Narayana Pillai was one of the founders of the library in the early first half of the last century. The told histories are many, the untold are still inside the treasure and imaginative troves. They collected fund from Paliam tharavadu and from the local business men at that point of time to start a library with some 35 books. As years went by, this library witnessed several ups and downs. Off late, this library was considered to be one of the best libraries in Kerala and has won several Kerala Grandhashala awards. An excellent team stirs the wheels of the library.” (sic)
Unni goes on to describe his childhood in the town, where genuine excitement would follow the arrival of a new detective novel. The library used to be the stomping ground for children and adults alike as the latter spent hours playing cards or engaged in lengthy discussions.
Introducing us to the current librarian, Unni says, “Standing in this picture browsing the dry leaves of a book, is Joy, my friend and the current librarian. This man who is in the photo is not only a librarian. He was an amazing reader of books. In fact all types of books. From Vedanta to pornography, from science to all contemporary literatures, from astronomy to popular culture.”
There’s still hope that the texts may not be lost forever as the state archives department has introduced mobile conservation clinics to restore historical documents. The Hindu reported that the clinic will arrive at Chendamangalam on Saturday and start the restoration process of over-a-century-old rare books in the Nair Samajam Library.
The recent deluge in Kerala was unforgiving; devouring almost everything that came in its path. At last count, 483 lives were lost to the raging flood waters.