In these ‘iPad’ times of 24X7 news channels and streaming video portals, when the death of the newspaper is considered a certainty, a small bookless library in Daryaganj is doing well with its reading room full with those supposedly dying entities.
“We have 19 dailies in Hindi, English and Urdu,” says Mohammad Alam, the attendant at Hardayal Municipal Public Library.
Situated on the perennially clogged Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Marg, about a hundred readers come here daily. “We also subscribe to 25 magazines, but most people prefer newspapers,” says Alam.
The bare library has no sofa, recliner or air-conditioner. It’s just a large, airy room with one exhaust fan, three low-hung ceiling fans, four tube-lights, eight tables and a couple of benches. A picture of Saraswati, the Goddess of learning, hangs on one wall. The traffic noise comes in through the open door and a large window, but the library retains its library-like quietness.
Most who visit are regulars. “I come here daily,” says Muhammad Shamim, who describes himself as an unemployed youth forced to iron clothes for a living. While Shamim’s family does get a paper at its house in the nearby Dilli Gate, he comes to the library for its variety. “I watch the news channels, but you can never focus on the news on TV,” he says. “You keep surfing to see bits of films and songs playing on the other channels. Here, I’m able to follow the news with full concentration,” he says.
Trooping in with a helmet, Sandeep Mishra, a sales representative, starts scrounging for his favourite Hindi daily. And then he settles down on a bench. “I love newspapers,” he says. “They give you fuller stories (as compared to TV). The opinions by experts and the thoughtful editorials enrich you.” Mishra’s work makes him ride around central Delhi, and for his daily news break, he faithfully stops by this library. Twenty years later, if newspapers really die, this precious library could then be turned into a heritage property.