Former President of India, VV Giri and his family members would visit this Library to borrow books for several years.

Started 65 yrs ago by a 10-yr-old this Bengaluru library retains an old world charm
news Human Interest Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 16:31

The story of Gupta Circulating Library in Bengaluru starts 65 years ago. Two brothers, aged 10 and 12, suddenly found themselves responsible for taking care of their family of 10, after their father passed away. “We were six sisters and three brothers,” says GRJ Gupta, now 75 years old. “We did not have anyone to support the family. So, my brother, GRP Gupta, and I decided to start a library-cum-newspaper agency. In 1952, this seemed like the best thing we could do,” he adds.

Today, the septuagenarian sits behind his tiny desk at Gupta Circulating Library in Malleshwaram, making entries of borrowed books in a giant green ledger. All these years later, the library, located on the busy Sampige Road, retains its old world charm, and has many regular customers who walk in and borrow books every day.

The early days

Since they opened up the library, the brothers worked hard to make ends meet. They grew slowly, and obtained the sole distributorship in Bengaluru for Times of India Bombay, Kannada newspaper Udayavani, Chitralaya from Hyderabad and Pesum Padam from Tamil Nadu.

“We were the main distributors of a lot of magazines and newspapers in Bengaluru back then. We had started Gangavaram Agency, which distributed newspapers,” GRJ Gupta says.

“I would wake up at 3 am and hop onto my cycle. I used to cycle for 40-50 km every day to distribute newspapers. I would go from Malleshwaram to Halasuru and right up to Jalahalli. Then I would come back to the library, help out a little and walk to school. I studied in Seshadripuram School near Cantonment,” he recalls.

Although most of the initial years were concentrated on distribution of magazines and newspapers, the brothers decided to up the ante on their circulating library in 1965.

“We had Kannada, Tamil and English books in the beginning. At the time, there were a lot of people who would visit the library to read. In 1965, we began collecting books in Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, and Bengali. We had books in over eight languages and around 3,500 members,” Gupta says.

The visitors

Recalling a few prominent personalities who obtained membership at his library, Gupta says that the former President of India, VV Giri and his family members would visit his Library to borrow Telugu language books.

“In 1965, VV Giri was the Governor of Karnataka. He and his family used to visit my library for Telugu novels,” Gupta recalls.

“People from Chennai, Mangaluru and Manipal would come all the way to visit the library. They would come once in a month and borrow books. When I started the library, the membership fee was 50 paisa. The cost for borrowing a book was 50 paisa,” he says.

In the same year, the library began its home delivery facility, which became extremely popular among Bengaluru residents.

“We had a lot of books in the fiction section as most people preferred it. We had a few employees who would go to the homes of the members with a few of books and they would exchange these books for the ones the members had previously borrowed. We had over 30,000 books back then. Now I have only 10,000,” Gupta adds.

The library today

The Gupta Circulating Library had branches in Hanumanthanagar, Basavangudi, Jayanagar, Ulsoor, Jalahalli and other localities in Bengaluru.

“We had 40 employees but still, my brother and I worked hard every day for 45 years. As years passed, the concept of sole distributorship also fell apart,” he says.

The brothers split up and GRJ Gupta set up the circulating library on Sampige Road in a 10x10 ft space. Gupta sold over 20,000 books as he was unable to accommodate all of them in the small space of his current outlet. Yet, the regulars and old-timers still visit the library.

“We have 500 active members now. Most of them are between 50 and 70 years old and they are like family to me,” Gupta says.

Now, Gupta offers books and magazines in four languages – Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and English. His up-to-date library has octogenarian Padma, the oldest member, drop by every day to borrow books.

“I read only Tamil books and magazines. My daughter and her children also visit the library. I come here every day but they do whenever they find time. Everybody is so busy these days,” Padma says.

Gupta’s son is employed with TCS in Chennai and his daughter is married to a grain merchant in Bengaluru.

“It’s only me and my wife Parimala who run the place now. We thought of closing it because not many people come here as they used to back then. Now people have libraries on their mobile phones right? But I couldn’t close it down. It’s what I have done all my life and I cannot give it up,” Gupta adds.


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