Sunday, May 26, 2013

Uttarpara Jaikrishna Library

The mysterious rooms on the first floor had been locked forever. Rumors were if you tried really hard, you could still hear Michael Madhusudan reciting MeghnadBadh Kabya on his deathbed. I tried, but only heard footsteps a couple of times.

The ground floor of Asia's first public library and its 1.5 million books were still accessible to "public" although subject to Swapan-da's level of non-cooperation -- ranging from "parbo na" to "ek ghonta pore eso" -- and whether the backup librarian's flirtatious advances towards the temporary clerk received a relatively benign response.

But those were minor hurdles.

The shelves that needed no librarian would last at least 10.5 lives. Enough food for even a fasting 12-year old hopelessly addicted to extremely fast reading.

Major problem was the walk. If the school ends at 3:20, the library closes at 7:00, and if it takes 20 minutes to walk from school to library, and then another 45 minutes from library to home, how many words can you read? Clearly not enough.

Fortunately, to solve this precise problem, intelligent Brahmins and Germans came up with two crucial inventions - poite and bicycle.

More importantly,these two inventions work together really well when a generous baRomasi gifts a 13-year old boy a brand new bicycle despite vigourous protests from the boy's parents.

Quality of life can jump exponentially and in unexpected directions when all of a sudden 20 minutes become 5 and 45 minutes 10. You might end up exhausting all chhoToder bangla books available on accessible shelves much sooner than you had anticipated, and while searching for a Sansad Engligh-to-Bengali dictionary with your left hand, your right hand might nervously extend towards the ingreji shelves.

In 1851, East India company refused to help JaiKrishna Mukherjee, but could not stop him and his community. Enterprising individuals and communities somehow manage to beat states -- mercantile, communist or both.

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