A 134-year-old library on East Street is the favoured haunt of students,pensioners and book lovers alike
The Albert Edward Institute and Cowasji Wadia Hall and Library is clearly past its glory days. Its once magnificent arches need a fresh coat of paint. The old furniture requires much sprucing up. The welcome,musty smell of thousands of books gets a tad too overpowering.
But the library,set up in 1875,boasts of quite a glorious past. In 1872,Prince Albert Edward (afterwards King Edward VII) came to India and paid a visit to Poona. This was the first such occasion since the British conquest of India and it was decided to suitably commemorate it, relates a historical account of the Library,written in 1952 by M C Medora and Dr A Dias.
The library was first opened on a small scale in 1875. In 1878,the present site,formerly the Cantonment Jail,was granted and the new building was inaugurated in 1881 by Sir James Fergusson,the then Governor of Bombay, says the account.
Open on all days of the week (from 8 am to 1.30 pm and from 4 to 7.30 pm) the library is popular with students,senior citizens and booklovers,owing to its large collection (17,000) of books and periodicals,on topics ranging from history to meteorology and philosophy to anthropology.
Kanchan Karvekar,librarian since 1993,informs how its mainly students preparing for civil services,medical,engineering and CA (chartered accountancy) entrance who head for the solitude of the place. These days,mostly students and pensioners make their way here. College students and those appearing for competitive exams also come over, Karvekar adds.
However,Shivaji Kamble,whos been the caretaker here for the last 34 years,says hes disappointed with the reducing number of students. Not many people read books or novels these days. When I had started working here,things were so different and there were many regulars, he says. Ask one of the regulars Dr Gurpreet Ahluwalia why she comes here and she replies,I am preparing for my PG medical entrance and the quiet ambience here helps me concentrate. Also,when I get tired of studying,I pick up magazines and newspapers for some light reading.
Ditto for Anupama Hiramwale,whos doing her first year of Law. Its really conducive for studies and with the kind of atmosphere I get here,I can grasp tough,lengthy concepts with ease, she says.
Even if you arent a student or a pensioner,head to this haven of books to get a taste of a different era and a different world. Youll not come back disappointed,just looking forward to devouring more of the printed matter !