Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tilak Memorial Library

At the far end of Mussoorie is an area called Library Bazaar. The name comes from an old library that is located above a row of shops. Here is a picture I took last year. Over the past two years, I have attempted to get inside a number of times, but it has been closed every time I've been there. I recently was told that it is a subscription library, and memberships are generally inherited. I know I was inside it one time over 30 years ago and hope to do it again.

Recently I was told that there is another library in town, this one across from Picture Palace at the beginning of Kulri Bazaar. I had seen it but never really noticed or paid much attention, especially since the sign is in Hindi. Last evening Dan and I decided to stop in on our way to dinner. This is the outside view, taken standing in front of Picture Palace.

Once inside, we were greeted by these two women who were working at the desk at the back of the room. The one on the right was knitting. I asked if it was OK to take their picture and they seemed pleased. As we chatted with them about the library, they were eager to tell us all about the place. This, too, is a subscription library, but anyone can join. The fees are a refundable security deposit of Rs. 300 (about $7), entrance fee (nonrefundable) of Rs. 50 (about $1.10), and a monthly fee of Rs. 25 (about $.55). This seemed like a very reasonable amount to us and the kind of thing we should support, so we took out a membership for me. The library is open daily from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM and 4:00 to 8:00 PM.

This is the view from the back of the room looking toward the door. When you enter, there are two angled racks for reading newspapers. Then two long reading tables with chairs. The books are in glass-fronted bookcases around the perimeter of the room. There are also bookcases sitting perpendicular to the wall, like small stacks. There were 3-4 people there reading.

A photo of the Sri Tilak who founded the library hangs above the back of the room.

Here the librarian is filling out my membership form and receipt for our payment. I got the feeling that I might have been the first person from Woodstock to do this. She was quite amazed, but pleased.

This photo shows the English fiction area. At a rough estimate, the books are probably half (or slightly more) in Hindi and half in English. While I was looking through this area, the books stopped at authors beginning with K. I poked around and found another area to the left where they continued. I was particularly interested in seeing which Nevil Shute books they have. I collect them and now have nearly everything he wrote. Some are in elderly paperbacks and I keep looking for hardbacks in used bookstores. They did have a number of his books so I took out one I hadn't read for a long time. When I checked it out, I was the first entry on the slip in the back. But it does look like it has been read at some point. It is a first edition from 1953. All the books are dusty and musty. There is no climate control and the monsoon is hard on them.


  1. I see most of the books are behind glass, which must help with dust but I wonder if it prevents air circulation during the wet periods. Fascinating report!

  2. I'm deducing from your post that India does not have an extensive system of free public libraries--is that the situation? Although the fees are relatively inexpensive, subscribing to a library must not be a possibility for everyone. I know from my work at the university library that India is a prolific publisher! So, enjoy browsing the shelves and picking up books!

  3. This takes me back to my schooldays spent in Mussoorie (1970s, albeit in a different school). I wonder if they have any books by John Masters - read a few of those long ago and have been looking for them ever since. Sadly, Bhowani Junction is the only one I have been able to find.

  4. Sujit - I have found quite a few of Masters' books online on Amazon; a quick check of Indian book websites brings up some on,, and, among others. Good luck!


Please send me your thoughts about my posts.