August 10, 2015
For the retailers of old and used book at South Ukkadam, charity begins at their shops. They make it a point to distribute free books to poor students every year besides helping girls from poor families with marriage assistance. And, they have been doing this since 2000.
“Though we eke out a living selling both old and new books, we are determined to serve the society in one way or the other,” says K.M. Ismail, who heads the Coimbatore Ukkadam Old Books Traders Association. “We have come a long way braving all odds selling books from makeshift shops on the platforms near Eswaran Koil Street. We now have a permanent roof over our head. Thanks to Niranjan Mardi, the Corporation Commissioner who gave corporation land for putting up a row of 31 shops way back in 1995,” he says, adding that they have books from Kindergarten right up to PhD research studies.
“Just name it and we will have it” is the buzzword for old-books retailers at Ukkadam. They mostly deal in old books, that too education related ones, as many of the students pursuing their engineering and medicine degrees visit their shops in search of rare old books for their studies. Customers from far off places like Thiruvananthapuram visit the shops during the weekends. Since these books are purchased at 50 percent price from the students, the booksellers, in turn, sell it at a very nominal price to the students. Sometimes, students exchange these old books for new ones.
P.H. Mubarak, manager of the association, said that they have been helping poor patients through medical fund mobilised from their members, mainly for kidney and heart ailments. Even accident victims have been benefited by the funds by the timely help extended by the members. “Money comes and goes, but timely help not only saves precious lives, but such deeds are remembered forever,” he adds.
What is interesting is the fact that many college libraries get their collection of rare books from these sellers. Students from nearby districts of Tirupur, Erode, Salem, Namakkal, and the Nilgiris regularly visit the old book shops. They have their VIP customers too, including the former Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta, former District Collector N. Muruganandam, Deputy Commissioner of Police Davidson, besides writers Sujatha, Rajesh Kumar, film director Manivannan, comedian Vaiyapuri, and Dr. Padmanabhan from Bharathiar University.
Despite huge rents, the old books retailers had to run the show to keep the wolves from their doorsteps, as they have no other alternatives for their livelihood.
”Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind,” said James Russell Lowell. It’s booksellers like these who are doing the task.