Once Upon A time: Almost 150 years old, David Sassoon library keeps up with the times

The library building, a Grade I heritage structure, is a Gothic structure overlooking the Kala Ghoda square

| Mumbai | Published: August 7, 2016 1:26 am
The statue of David Sassoon, the Jewish banker after whom the library is named. Express photo by Nirmal Harindran, 2nd July, 2016, Mumbai. The library was the brainchild of David Sassoon.(Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

For 20 years now, advocate Bharat Dhoria (72) has never failed to keep his afternoon date. Come rain or shine, Dhoria makes it a point to go to the David Sassoon Library in Kala Ghoda, a 150-year-old institution.

In 1862, around the time when Fort George of Bombay was demolished, a Jewish banker named David Sassoon sowed the seeds of a reading room in the Esplanade, then an expanse of unhindered green, today a busy business hub. The library building, a Grade I heritage structure, is a Gothic structure overlooking the Kala Ghoda square.

It boasts of a balcony with giant arches offering views of the busy square and garden. At the central hallway on the ground floor, one is greeted by a life-size statue of David Sassoon, the man whose brainchild the library is. On the first floor, bookshelves line up along the wall. Readers of all age groups can be seen hunched over piles of books. Some readers are lounging in the balcony, newspapers in hands.

The library’s rare collection — the David Sassoon Library and Reading Room — has more than 70,000 books to attract readers from the length and breadth of the city. Currently, there are 2,589 members.

“People come here from as far as Nallasopara,” said Kaushik Oza, Vice-President of the managing committee of the library. “Many of our readers have been members for almost 20 years,” said Oza, who first became a member in 1983 during his post-graduation days.

For many, like Oza and Dhoria, the library is a part of their lives. “People have come and gone but the library has always kept pace with time,” said Dhoria.

Rare and latest publications in four languages — Hindi, English, Gujarati and Marathi — are available to readers. An annual budget is allocated by the library, which runs on donations and membership fees, for purchase of books. The library is WiFi enabled, which appeals to the younger readers.

“The library offers the latest journals and books. We can also read online as there is WiFi,” said 22-year-old Ekta Kadam from Charni Road, who is preparing for civil services exams in the library for a year now.

It is the only library in the city which is open throughout the year, said Oza.

Ahead of its Foundation Day in February next year, busy preparations are underway . Committee members have fixed the leakage in the roof. “Readers can now use the library without any inconvenience,” said a committee member, adding that restoration work will be carried out when the library has sufficient funds.

Recently, the library has received offers from donors, said Oza. “A plan to install solar panels is also in the pipeline,” he said. Along the lines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘chai pe charcha’, the library has planned to start discussions every second and fourth Saturday.

“The welfare of the library is the prime concern of each committee member,” said Oza, who has held the reins of the library after the president of the committee resigned recently. Oza also denied earlier reports of the library shutting down. “The library will celebrate its 150th Foundation Day and hopefully live for another 150 years,” he said.

 

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