Photo Credit: Jocalling.blogspot.com
Author: Rajeev Soman
If I start speaking about the British Library Trivandrum, it is difficult for me to stop. This library has meant so much to me that it was heart wrenching when the news of its closure reached me in 2008 – although I was no longer in Trivandrum.
I was involved with this library, right from my primary school days in the late 1970s. My father was one of the earliest members of the library when it started in the 1960s and remained a member till they closed down. In the 1970s the library had a children’s section as well, so my visits started from the time I was 7 or 8years old.
At an age when other children would be looking forward to visits to the Museum or to the movie theater for watching cartoons (Television had not yet appeared in Trivandrum), I would be looking forward to the visits to the library tagging along with my father. In those days we used to stay in Jawahar Nagar and I still remember those Friday evening trips, when my Dad would return after work and both of us would take the 5.30 PM bus which went from Jawahar Nagar to East Fort. The fare was a mere 30 paisa. We would walk to the library where I went into the children’s section and Dad got busy browsing books on his very wide range of interests. At 6.50 PM the bell would ring – indicating ten minutes closure and that was the time for both of us to meet again.
Dad always seemed to have at least 2 or 3 of his medical students who used to meet him at the library. After the library closed at 7.00 PM, they all moved to the adjacent Trivandrum Hotel, where it was “Lime juice and ghee roast” for me, while Dad and his circle continued their discussions – not necessarily literary- they seemed to be speaking on almost every topic under the sun. By 8.00 PM, it would be time to return home. Since Jawahar Nagar buses were not frequent in the evening, we often used to get down at Vellayambalam and walk the last kilometer or so – a road which had a very steep descent followed by a very steep ascent. Thus the library also was indirectly responsible for me to getting used to walking fairly long distances from very early days, a habit which has persisted to this day.
As years moved on, the children’s section was closed down but by then I had developed an interest in Cricket about which the Library had a good section of books . I still remember the Dewey Decimal Classification number for Cricket .it was 796.358.
The library was also responsible for me in developing an interest in airlines and aviation including its collection of “Flight International” magazines. This eventually played a big part in my switching careers from being an Engineer to becoming an Air Transport Manager.
I used the library extensively till around 1996. Soon after that I moved to Chennai for my career and although I took a membership at the much bigger British Council Library there, it never seemed to have the charms of the Trivandrum library.
In 2002 I had the occasion to use the services of the Trivandrum library again when I attended the pre departure briefing the British Council arranged for the students leaving that year for attending UK universities. I was leaving that year to UK to do my specialized MSc in Air Transport, an interest which was stimulated mainly by my exposure to the books on the subject I was able to read in the Trivandrum library. In 2004, the British Council invited me as a returning student to speak about my experiences in UK. While I was not able to attend the Trivandrum event , I attended the one at Chennai. It was a SMALL thank you from side for all the BIG things the British Library in Trivandrum had done for me.