Lady in the British library

//Lady in the British library

Lady in the British library

Swanky library next to YMCA , cackling
College girls crowd the YMCA steps, like when
chicks get hep, they join the men’s club

Air conditioning, British prescript, books-
stay in racks, ergonomic seats, is there
anything else I hate about the place

Only metal detector in the city, I’m no
suicide bomber, but it feels so nice
to get certified

Over the years I’ve seen the-
Lady in the British library gracefully
preside over her stately place

Across the table, under her watch,
I fill in the refund form, plain and simple,
return to innocence

There was nothing to cry for, never-
liked the place despite being a regular
the last British hangout will rest in state

Only place in the city, where you-
have to speak in British, hate it,
love it, let it go!

“so why you closing down” I asked,
“no good reason, council’s decision”
Her voice founders her majesty’s last defense

Because this time, she speaks to me in malayalam. There are certain times when you speak in your mother’s language, like when you speak directly to the heart.

Neither can I change that, nor
can you reverse that.
Because malayalam is a palindrome.

“Why? is this place not viable?”

“No, the revenues are up a hundred percent, thats no reason, no”

Her voice hushes and breaks while she talks, like complaining to a long time friend.

“Just like that?”

“Yes, the council want to cut down on the number of centers, some decision”

“And the books, are you selling them?”, I was sure I wouldn’t buy a single book

“The Chief Minister wants the library to continue, so the state government may take the books”

See everybody wants the British Library in Trivandrum to continue – the lady, the Chief Minister, my mother. Everybody except the council and perhaps me. I’m undecided like why.

“So you all are getting transferred to other British libraries?”

“No”, She said, looked down. Last word.

Isn’t that where it comes crashing down, like stock markets, and we finally return to innocence. That working for the British don’t make you British, even if you feel so in the good times.

And when in a turn of pitch and toss,
they leave you on the road,
you grab that handful of salt and
refuse to talk their lore.

The refund cheque said rupees three hundred and thrity two. The library closes down finally on February 29th.

For the uninitiated – its a Leap year.

Cross posted in the Diaries

By | 2008-02-24T14:03:54-05:00 February 24th, 2008|Trivandrum|9 Comments


  1. Rajeev February 24, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Good one 🙂 A truckload of bitter sweet memories for me too, but then, uptight British snobs they were! I dont know of another institution that has contributed so less to the Tvm cultural scene inspite of all its years there. Wasn’t it that, once upon a time, wearing a mundu was not allowed in the library?

  2. BVN February 25, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Rajeev, glad you put this comment. I had a very vague fear that I was the only one put off by the ritual over there 🙂

  3. Dilip February 25, 2008 at 4:36 am

    It was so disappointing from the part of the State Govt. not to have raised this (closure of British Library) to the British PM Gordon Brown when he was here for an official visit last month.

  4. admin February 25, 2008 at 9:23 am

    there was some movement on it, see here,

  5. Dilip February 26, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Good! But it was later decided that the State Govt will be taking over the library, right? Let’s wait and see how they manage it… See the plight of our Public Library at Palayam 🙁

  6. BVN February 26, 2008 at 7:26 am


    you might have seen this one. They have upgraded the Public library with online catalogue, reservation, AC reading rooms etc. Happened last weekend…i mean Achu mama inaugurated the new library. I’m planning to renew my membership btw 🙂

  7. alakananda February 26, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    so they are closing down BCL? well, i heard it here. brings back a lot of memories that place. when the institute of eng. lib couldn’t meet our demands, bcl sometimes did. it was more of a routine, the trips there. well, the Y was nearby and we at the other Y wanted some eye candy too 😉
    hmm, i once paid Rs.52 as fine for overdue books. during hostel days, that amounted to quite a few masala dosas at AJ. sob. sob.
    so many memories. sad the place is shutting shop.
    when the comrades’ lib at van ross came down, the books were available on the street. what happens to the books here?

  8. Dilip February 27, 2008 at 3:45 am

    Here’s the official communication from the British Council. It seems they’re closing the BL @ Bhopal as well.

    The reason : “changing the nature of its work ”

  9. BVN February 29, 2008 at 4:03 am

    alakananda, oh a regular 🙂 , yeah i too have a few books from Gorky bhavan, BCL books will go to the state govt. whats AJ btw?

    Dilip, they are doing it around the world, major closures seem to be in the CIS countries

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