• Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019
  • Last Update : 01:19 am

Financial hardship threatens half-century old personal library

  • Published at 12:27 am October 16th, 2019

On October 11, Gokul took out a newspaper ad for the sale of his personal library

Gokul Chandra, 64, never thought he would have to sell the personal library he had painstakingly maintained for nearly half a century. However, financial hardship has forced the retired school teacher into just such a situation.

The library requires Tk2,000 for maintenance every month, in addition to rent, and the payment of the amount has grown increasingly difficult for Gokul since he ended his 33-year career as a school teacher on Valentine’s Day, 2014. The day is also his birthday, and he was the assistant headmaster of the Government Laboratory High School at the time. 

On October 11, Gokul took out a newspaper ad for the sale of his personal library. He is offering to sell 2,000 books for Tk15 lakh, and a number of magazines for Tk10 lakh.

How the library began

Gokul started the book collection, which would grow into an impressive library, when he was just a 10th grader, in 1972. Subsequently, whenever he shifted houses, truck loads of books would be shifted along with him.

The library is currently located at Dhanmondi in Dhaka, where Gokul had moved to in 1992.

Gokul recently told Dhaka Tribune: “As I was an only child, my father always promised me all his money if I was interested in buying books. Even though he himself was illiterate, he encouraged me to buy as many books as I wanted to.”

Discussing his passion for reading, Gokul recounted how he wanted to buy a thesis book of poet Hayat Mahmud in 1992, but only one copy had been available at Rajshahi University library.

Finding no other way to obtain a copy, Gokul sold a piece of land for Tk2,000 to travel all the way to Rajshahi, and bought the book for Tk200. 

Gokul is a fan of poet Jibanananda Das, and has already penned two poetry books. 

Start of the crisis

Gokul said his economic condition has been worsening since his retirement in 2014, and he was eventually forced into the decision to sell the library.

Although I love books, and never thought I would be in this position, reality drove me into taking the decision to sell,” he said. 

“We can easily live in two rooms but paying for the third room, where the library is located, has become a burden for me,” he added.

The collection is preserved in 14 cupboards inside the room. Gokul said some of the pieces in the collection are so rare that their price cannot be bargained, yet he is still charging a nominal price.

He also said that the library even has an archive.

The response

Since the ad was published in a Bangla national daily, Gokul has received a number of calls from interested buyers, including individuals, and organizations. 

Some of his former students are also interested in buying the library, and have proposed to keep it at its current location instead of relocating. Gokul finds this option more agreeable, as it would allow him to keep working on the collection. 

“If I finally agree with them [the students], these books, and magazines will stay with me, thus helping me continue with my passion,” he said.