When he was Pune MP, Pradeep Rawat’s favourite place to unwind was the Parliament library. And when his term as a BJP MP in the A B Vajpayee government ended, Rawat decided to build a library of his own.
Today, his library has more than 5,000 books, mostly on science and evolutionary biology In the last three years, it has been a second home to 30,000 students who have sat there and read from his collection.
“The collection is helpful for civil services aspirants. The encylopaedias, magazines and books ranging from .spiritualism and science were terrific,” said Atul Kanade, who used to be a frequent visitor and went on to top the Maharashtra PSC exam last year.
Rawat, 60, who lost his father at age 13, took admission to science at Abasaheb Garware College but was jailed during the JP movement and couldn’t complete that course. His passion for science culminated in Nature Academy Library.
“I must have this book in my library” was an urge that saw Rawat even bid online and buy a second-hand copy of Jacques Monod’s Chance and Necessity for $200 . “The book is rather dated after 45 years. But don’t you think it is important to go back and see what issues were at an earlier time?” said Rawat, who often travels to the United States and Europe and returns with eight to 10 bags filled with books.
Along with Carl Sagan and Charles Darwin, the library has catalogued the books under heads such as Brain and Behaviour, Plants and Animals, Science and Technology, Climate Science, and Biographies. Indian authors’ contribution to science and a biographical dictionary of Indian scientists find a place on the shelves. Another section deals with where God and science meet.
Rawat said he is in informal talks with scientists at Indian Institute of Education, Science and Research to start weekly academic discussions and debates at the library.
Dr L S Shashidhara, head of biology at IISER, said it is one of the best public libraries he has visited. “There is a vast collection on all aspects of science and not many are found at even our institute or Pune University. What is important is that despite not being a science stream graduate, he has read these scholarly books that are usually read by researchers,” said Shahsidhara.