Photo secured by the author, Partha Sarathy
Author: Partha Sarathy
US based senior management professional, Partha Sarathy was initiated to the world of books through his school library. Having set a school record in the number of library books borrowed, Partha says he owes a lot to the wide range of reading he was able to do in his school years.This gratitude was also a reason he readily agreed to share his experiences with the Libraries of our Lives project when the team approached him.
I’ve always been fascinated by libraries. I think a library brings together the best works of the best minds in human history, their immortal voices undimmed by the passage of time. While l revere all libraries, there is one that has a special place in my mind. It’s the library at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Vidya Mandir school in Elamakkara in Kochi, Kerala, where I studied in the 1970s and 1980s.
Our school was in those days one of the best in Kochi, and probably one of the best in Kerala. The school library was very good as well. We had a large collection of books and magazines, neatly arranged in shelves that stretched from one end of a large hall to the other. In my juvenile imagination, the library hall was so massive that one couldn’t see from one end to the other. Law and order was enforced by the gentle, soft-spoken, kind-hearted librarian Mrs. Maya Nambiar, supported by a rather ferocious assistant whose name I don’t recall now. The duo somehow maintained peace even when the hallowed portals of the library were invaded by mobs of unruly kids.
Vintage Enid Blyton Books
Credit: peonyandthistle CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
When I was in 5th and 6th, my favorite author was Enid Blyton. I think I read almost every one of her books. We had Noddy for young kids; the Secret Seven series; the Famous Five series for older kids; and a lot of girls’ books. I was careful not to be seen reading those in public. Years later I discovered that American libraries don’t carry Enid Blyton’s books because they are considered racist. It never occurred to me when I was in school.
We had a lot of abridged and illustrated classics by the popular authors, including Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Alexander Dumas, and Robert L. Stevenson. These books were thin, had large font, contained nice pictures, and were a delight to read. I don’t think we had too many Indian authors, but I do recall R.K. Narayan’s books. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s mission was to preserve India’s literary and cultural heritage, so we had books by Gandhi, Nehru, Vivekananda, and other assorted swamis and gurus. We also had a reference section with Encyclopedia Britannica and many other big books. Continue reading