GUNTUR: In a day and age where the habit of reading is gradually declining, Lanka Suryanarayana takes pride in his treasure trove of 1.35 lakh books. Talking about books and giving a grand tour of his library can never be tiring for this 88-year-old unapologetic bibliophile.
“As a young boy, I got hooked to reading after my paternal uncle Anand Rao introduced me to Bengali writer Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s translated novels. There was no looking back after that. I had found my passion, says Suryanarayana with a sparkle in his eyes.
“I began collecting books by whatever means possible,” he recalls and adds, “What began as an assortment of a few books turned into a treasure trove of over 1.35 lakh books and nearly four lakh important paper cuttings, besides other printed material,” the octogenarian added.
Born in an agriculture family in Guntur, he went to an elementary school in the village. He retired as a preventive superintendent at Customs and Central Excise Department.
His commitment for books is evident at the Annamayya Library, which boasts of housing 4,000 dictionaries, encyclopedias and 6,000 autobiographies, 200 Upanishads, books and compilations of various genres, complete works of famous Telugu writers like Kutumba Rao, Sri Sri, Muppala Ranganayakamma, Suryadevara Sanjiv Dev, Narla Venkateswara Rao, Viswanatha Satyanarayana and Devulapalli Krishna Sastry.
It also has 800 translations and commentaries on Bhagavad Gita and 1,400 translations and commentaries of Ramayana, 99 translations of Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore and the noted literary classic ‘Where The Mind Is Without Fear’. Besides, one can also find 3,000-odd paintings, literary works on music, and 50 kinds of old magazines of India and AP.
Through Annamayya Temple Trust, Suryanarayana also donates several books to schools and various other libraries. “Finding some books was a tedious task. However, the process almost always brought me joy. It did not feel like a chore,” he explains and recalls how he has had to travel thousands of kilometres to find books that were not a part of his collection.
“Even a 50-year-old Times magazine can be found here,” Suryanarayana says with a sense of pride.
Potturi Venkateswara Rao, VAK Ranga Rao, C Subbarao, Medasani Mohan, Gollapudi Maruthi Rao, Tanikella Bharani, Retired Justices Jasti Chalameshwar and NV Ramana, are among the several people who have visited the library and lauded Suryanarayana for his amazing contribution.He was also awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal for his services.