Walking the less-trodden path - The New Indian Express

Walking the less-trodden path

Published: 12th October 2012 12:33 PM

Last Updated: 12th October 2012 12:33 PM

Twice in his life, Lalbabu chose to take roads less travelled. He had caused many eyebrows to raise when he opted to become an agriculturist years ago, just after finishing his graduation in law. But his mission in life was different and it was to start a library. Only, he had to find the money from his humble calling. So when Krishnan Library opened in a modest room on the ground floor of Malankara building complex at Palayam last month, it was a dream come true for this earnest book lover. And this time too, there aren’t many who appreciate the fact that a staggering twenty lakhs was spent on an enterprise that is not likely to breakeven in his lifetime.

The degree in law was an accident, says Lalbabu. “There was no genuine interest. My father’s health was failing by then and I had to brush up the lessons he had given me in farming. At first, I was doing it because there was no option. The crops needed to be taken care of and letting it wither would break my father’s heart. By the time I finished my graduation, I was convinced I had found my calling. But, I did enrol as an advocate,” he smiles.

His father K Krishnan, a voracious reader himself, had introduced Lalbabu to the world of books quite early. “I was given the Malayalam translations of  Mahabharata and Ramayana. I remember relishing the retelling of Panchatantra by Malayalam author Sumangala. The one book that has made a great impression on me is S K Pottekkatt’s ‘Oru Desathinte Kadha’.

Raising the capital took as long as two decades. In all those years, Lalbabu’s spare times were spent thinking about the essentials of a good library. Not once did he doubt the plausibility of the idea. The apprehensions always centered around the degree of soundness he could bring to the whole enterprise. “I would draw sketches of the place as I conceived it and debated with myself whether to have revolving book racks or the regular ones,” he says.

The space instantly communicates the amount of thought that has gone into its making. The well-lit room is divided into two - one lined up with book racks and the other sporting a table and cane chairs to facilitate some quiet reading. Fully air conditioned, the library has an impressive collection of Malayalam books - fiction, poetry, children’s literature, reference books and so on.

The English section is being spruced up and will soon have enough choice, he says, adding that the entire collection of books is brand new. Vernacular magazines, general knowledge publications, newspapers and other reading materials are also available. Two computers, armed with broadband Internet, await users apart from the photostat and lamination equipment. Just in case, a visitor wants a glass of water, a refrigerator stands right beside carrying bottles of drinking water. In a while, he hopes to upgrade the library into a bookshop as well.

“If you can give me the name of the book, I can make it available in a day. Why don’t you google the name of the book right away,” offers Lalbabu to a customer who was in search of a poetry collection. 

“I learned to use the Internet at the British Council Library,” he says adding that its closing down had robbed him of a favourite haunt.

Lalbabu had wished to meet Pottekkatt in person but could not. “But I wish I could bring Sumangala Teacher to my library.”

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