In Golden Lettershttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/in-golden-letters/

In Golden Letters

As the Pune Marathi Granthalaya’s study-room turned 50 this year,ex-students recount experiences,while an office-bearer delves into its history and mission.

“I owe my career to the abhyasika (study room),” says Dattaray Agnihotri looking back at his days of struggle while establishing himself. “I used to stay close to the Pune Marathi Granthalaya in Narayanpeth and my house had space constraints,so I found the required peace-of-mind in the library’s abhyasika,which I began visiting in 1968 soon after my SSC till I graduated as an engineer,” Agnihotri adds.

Decades later,Agnihotri visited the abhyasika again on October 20; this time to celebrate the study-room’s 50th anniversary. He was joined by several others who,like Agnihotri,attribute their successful careers to the abhyasika’s study-conducive environment. “It was calm and quiet. Everybody came with a goal and was serious,” says Suhas Joshi,who joined the abhyasika in 1969,paying a nominal monthly fee of Rs 3.50.

“This public library was founded 102 years ago by N C Kelkar to serve society,” Dhananjay Barve,an office-holder at the library. The abhyasika,he says,was established later with the same intention: to provide students a place to study,and refer to books from a collection of over a lakh,at a nominal fee,which is now Rs 150.

Today the Pune Marathi Granthalaya is replete with state-of-the-art facilities besides a vast collection of books. “The main building is spread over 20,000 square feet. The library comes with a computerised record of books,which allows one to locate and refer to texts easily and faster,” says Barve,adding,“We also boast of hosting a formidable collection of old books which scholars often come to refer.” But the library’s distinguishing quality,Barve believes,is the social initiatives it undertakes.

“We conduct regular preparatory guest lectures on subjects related to the respective entrance examinations students at the abhyasika are preparing for,” says Barve,explaining further,“At times the majority may be preparing either for UPSC or engineering joint entrances,so we arrange free guest-lectures that might help aspirants with their preparations.”

Barve also recounts how the granthalaya helped the flood-ravaged libraries of the Konkan region a few years back. “Many libraries and buildings were destroyed by the floods. During those times the granthalaya gave away hundreds of books to each library,to replenish their lost collection,” says Barve. They also have a separate fund for the purchase and distribution of books to smaller libraries catering to rural and tribal areas.

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“The abhyasika,perhaps,exemplifies our efforts towards social service,” says Barve. The study-room spread over 5,000 square feet can accommodate about 1,200 students at a time. Elaborating on the demographics,he says “Most of the students studying here are from villages and small districts,and are preparing for competitive exams. Belonging to humble backgrounds,these students can neither afford tuitions nor books. The abhyasika offers them a quiet and comfortable place to study in and thousands of books to refer.”