Monday, June 25, 2012

A library in an Old Age Home

I like this story as it talks of a library set up in an Old Age home
by a retired CGHS doctor turned librarian. As suspected, the usage of
this unique library is low; The manager of Old age home is right when
she says that they are wary of accepting all donations of books as it
is difficult to maintain.-- Vyasamoorthy
And now for the news ----

A home for books
Alokparna Das,
Posted: Jun 24, 2012 at 0132 hrs IST

Agatha Christie sits next to Roget's Thesaurus, and Japuji Saheb is
placed next to a translation of the Torah. More than 3,000 books —
both old and new — on subjects as diverse as ancient architecture,
literature, geography, health, religion, metaphysics, hobbies and even
journalism, are neatly stacked in a cosy library that also boasts of
some replicas of ancient Indian art.
It's an excellent collection, and the man who manages the library is
equally impressive — Dr Janki Ballabh Jha — a medical practitioner
fluent in at least three languages has translated the Gita into
archaic English verse that the US-based International Gita Society has
uploaded on the Net. The most interesting aspect of the library is,
however, its setting — an old age home.

Godhuli, the senior citizens' home run by the Servants of the People
Society, has become a landmark in Dwarka. Neat and clean with modern
amenities, facilities such as gym and parking, and pleasing environs,
it is home to around 60 people, who, like 80-year-old Dr Jha, have
chosen to stay here post-retirement.

The library is located on the first floor of the building, next to a
sitting area with comfortable chairs and sofas and overlooking a

"While most of the titles are in English, we have around 300 books in
Hindi and 150 in Bengali — mostly literary works," says Jha, who
speaks all the three languages. He is self-taught in library science,
and in literature his personal favourites are Shakespeare and Arthur
Conan Doyle.

Using the universal decimal code, he has catalogued the entire
collection under various heads, including something as unusual as
'Death, Funeral & Obituary'.

"It is neither unusual nor morbid," he counters. "It is a biological
inevitability and also at a higher plane, the final question,"
philosophises Jha, who retired as chief medical officer, CGHS, and
practised in his native village in Jharkhand for a while before
joining Godhuli. "I was the fifth resident to join this place," he
says while showing us a 1954 second edition Kemsley Manual of

The voluntary work of a resident-librarian is, however, not without
regrets. The well-stocked place gets few visitors. "One of the
residents, a PhD in Sanskrit, was a regular reader here, but now with
failing health and poor eyesight she is unable to come to the library.
A 93-year-old lady borrows books quite regularly. Apart from them, you
can say that I am the sole reader and keeper of this place," he says
with a wry smile.

Says Alka Mathur, Godhuli's manager, "Health and interest are the two
key factors; it's up to the residents to use the library." She adds
that a large number of books have been donated by individuals. "We are
careful not to accept too many old books as they are difficult to
maintain," she says.

Perhaps opening the library to the general public or even local senior
citizens, for a nominal fee, would have ensured that people use it.
"But the library is meant for residents of this old age home, so that
they can read in privacy and peace. Opening the library for others
would also mean security and other related issues for Godhuli," adds

Jha, meanwhile, is happy spending time in this little library when he
is not surfing the Net for the latest medical news.

Dr P Vyasamoorthy, 30 Gruhalakshmi Colony Secunderabad 500015 Ph
040-27846631 / 9490804278.

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