The 400-square-foot store now stands barren except one shelf that survived. The space was used to store over 10,000 books, carefully picked by the owner, known locally as the ‘book man’.
From Tamil literature to English pop fiction to autobiographies, the books that found space at the store have disappeared. Because when Shivakumar, the man behind the store at Ekkattuthangal named ‘Tamil Book Man,’ walked in to open shop after the floods, he found that his life’s pursuit was a ruined heap of soggy pulp.
“The shelves were all on the floor. All the new books were destroyed after being soaked in dirty water for days,” recounts Shivakumar. “I could barely recognise the store I had built over the last 15 years,” he rues.
The loss was in lakhs as seven feet of water had ensured he had to start from scratch. “It is the only thing I wanted to do. So I have reopened it even though there are hardly 50 books now,” says the 40-year-old who began as a mobile book seller setting up makeshift stands outside meetings and conference halls.
Among his regular customers, and even in his locality, Shivakumar is known for his collection of motivational books as he maintains a special selection of the genre. “My father got me into the habit of reading many years ago, and it’s now a part of me,” he adds, as he turns to assure a customer that the books they want will be back up on shelves from next week.
He says that the past few weeks made him reconsider his decision to run the book shop. His family had advised him to look at other options, but his love for books soon brought him back to the business. Cleaning up the store and calling his suppliers, he says that reading Udhayamurthy’s Ennangal and Shiv Khera’s You Can Win gave him the clarity he needed to stick to his decision. “I wish there’s some consideration from banks to help us shopkeepers who have suffered from this disaster. But I’ll definitely build it back to how it was,” he adds with grit that had more than a trace of hope.
“It will help a great deal if buyers either visited my store or bought books from my site, www.tamilbookman.in. I believe that people will keep coming back; that’s what prevents me from shutting down this place,” he asserts.