After entertaining several generations of book addicts, Mecca Book House will shut shop in December.

Losing a piece of Bengaluru This 40-year-old city library is shutting down
Features Books Friday, November 24, 2017 - 18:04

Until four months ago, Mecca Book House in Frazer Town ran as a library like it had been doing so for the last 40 years.

And in those four decades, it has engaged and entertained several generations of book addicts.

However, this December the library, which has been a regular for many old-time Bengalureans will be shutting down once and for all.

On a sunny November afternoon, Fareed Ahmed sits in his store, relaxed and smoking a cigarette.

Humble beginnings

The library's 65-year-old owner pauses several times to narrate their humble beginnings to transforming into a space cherished by the city's bibliophiles.

Mecca Book Store was started by Fareed's father, who was a voracious reader.

"He had cultivated this habit of reading. And at that time, we lived in bungalow on Infantry Road. We had a store room where used to keep all his books after he was done reading. That is when he started the library. It was actually business by accident," he chuckles.

The shop was first located on Commercial Street after which it moved to Cox town for 30 years. It opened its present location at Frazer Town around seven years ago.

Earlier this year, Fareed decided to close down his business which had become increasingly unsustainable over the years.

"To run a library with such high costs is not possible. So, we are forced to close our establishment," he states.

While Fareed took over the library from his father at a young age, his three children have gone on to pursue their own lives and interests.

For the last couple of months, the library, with its vast collection of fictions -- especially romance, thriller and crime -- has been selling its books.

"I am trying to clear the stock because where will I take the books and go?" he asks.

The library is a quaint little place. There's no computer. All these years, Fareed has managed the register manually, making every entry when a person borrows a book, and then striking it off when the book has been returned and the transaction completed.

When a book is damaged, Fareed himself has repaired, stitched and then covered it.

Running a library in the internet age

He admits he does not even know how to use a smartphone and is content with the feature phone he has.

Around three years ago, a builder who was passing by the road stopped at his store and asked Fareed what was he doing running a library in the "internet age".

Fareed, though, feels that the digital trend has hardly affected people's reading habits and by extension, his occupation.

"Reading is like an addiction," he tells the reporter. "And those who are addicted will come and get books. But over the years the cost of books has increased a lot. How can we recover the cost? We started the library when Mills & Boons was Re 1 and 80 paisa. We used to charge 4 annas per week as reading charge."

These registers, that Fareed has managed manually, are nearly 17 years old. 

The rapid expansion of the city too has made his store inaccessible for many of his customers. "I used to get customers from Koramangala. Now nobody from there wants to come to Frazer Town. What can we do?"

With a treasure trove of over 5,000 books, the library had almost 750 members, of which almost 500 were regulars.

Fareed explains how he repaired his books. 

Now that it is closing down, many of his old customers have bought books in bulk from him.

"This lady used to come all the way from Whitefield every month. She borrowed 15 books at a time, the reading charge of which for a month would be around Rs 600. But her taxi fare was Rs 700. Last week when she came she bought 120 books from me and said it would last her for 10 months. She also thanked me for saving her a Rs 7,000 taxi fare," he smiles.

Fareed does not betray much emotion when asked how he feels as this journey comes to an end. His words speak for themselves.

"I have made only two assets in my life in Bangalore. Good memories and good health. And that is more than enough for us," he says getting up to down the shutters before breaking for lunch.

(If you are a fiction lover, the Mecca Book Store has put all its books on sale. Fixed at Rs 50 and Rs 100, the books are a steal.)

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