BENGALURU: Bengalureans love their books as much as they love their trees. But news that T S Shanbhag, owner of Premier Bookshop, had died, signaled the end of an era for the city’s bookworms. Although he was coping with various ailments, for Shanbhag, Covid-19 was the last blow. He was 81 years old when he breathed his last on Tuesday. Shanbhag was synonymous with Premier Bookshop, which he started in 1971.
Both have been a host to prominent Bengalureans such as historian Ramchandra Guha, Jnanapith and Padmabhushan awardee UR Ananthamurthy, playwright Girish Karnad, restaurateur Prem Koshy to name a few. Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the legendary Bangalore bookseller, TS Shanbhag. It was the virus that killed him. I owe much of my education 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. A longer tribute to him and his work is in my book “Patriots and Partisans” (sic).
For photographer Mahesh Bhat, it was a like to ritual to visit Premier Bookshop while in Church Street. “He was a man of few words but always had a small smile which was comforting,” recalls Bhat. Koshy says he fondly remembers calling him as ‘the angel of my books’. “I used to read books across all genres and it was precomputer days where things were listed properly. I would list requirements and after 2-3 days he would either call me or send the books to my shop,” says Koshy, adding that Bengaluru was one big family that time, where everyone knew everybody.
Shanbhag was remembered for appreciating true booklovers too. Writer Vivek Shanbhag recalls getting books from him on discounted prices. “When I was a student I never had enough money to buy all the books, so he used to let me borrow the books from the store. He valued the importance of a book,” says Vivek. Recalling some of Shanbhag’s quirks, he said his regular routine involved parking his car close to M Chinnaswamy Stadium at 8.30am and walking down to Koshys to have his coffee before opening his shop by 9.30am.
Though a place of fond memories for many, the bookshop eventually shut down in 2009, due to the exponential increase in the rent on Church Street. But, its loyal customers gave the shop and its owner a ceremonial send off. Poet Prathibha Nandakumar recalls that it was a get-together of sorts. “When he decided to close the shop, he gave away books at a 50 per cent discount so I bought a lot of them. We took a photo that day, it had Prof G Venkatasubbaiah, Ramachandra Guha, Vivek Shanbhag, me and others. After the photo shoot, all of us went to Church Street,” says Nandakumar, adding that when in Church Street , Premier was a regular stop for her.