Sunday, Aug 13, 2023

‘My bookstore has been my greatest experience of freedom’

What began on the pavement turned into city scholars’ favourite haunt

freedom krishna gowdaKrishna Gowda is a bookstore owner (Credit: Jitendra Kumar)
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‘My bookstore has been my greatest experience of freedom’
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Small acts of everyday freedom go a long way in establishing who we are as a people, and who we may want to become as a society and a nation. Ahead of Independence Day, we bring you stories of little acts of defiance, endless notes of possibilities 

Krishna Gowda, 43
Bookstore owner, Bengaluru

A few days ago, Australian cricket writer Mike Coward visited my store, Bookworm, and he was surprised to see a book he wrote in 1990 — Cricket Beyond the Bazaar — on the shelves. It had been out of print for a long time. But that’s not the only such surprise you’ll get at my store. Another such rare item was a scribble book owned by Indira Gandhi, which has her drawings and her signature.

When I came to the city more than two decades ago, I never imagined this would be my life. My journey with selling books began on the pavement in front of Higginbothams on MG Road, Bengaluru, in 1997. The stall outside the book store was run by Mayi Gowda. Mayi is from my village in Mysore, Rangasamudra, in Bannur district. I come from an agricultural background. Initially, when I told my family that I wanted to go to Bengaluru and get a commerce degree, they were hesitant. But they knew Mayi and they agreed to let me go under his supervision. In the city, I worked part time at his bookstall and attended college in the evenings.

I was 17 when I came to Bengaluru. Initially, it was a big surprise to see the crowds, especially on weekends. Back home, you would only see such crowds maybe once a year during a fair. I went on to pursue an MBA but it took me a while to decide on a career in books.

I was always a bookworm myself. Since my younger days, I had been reading Kannada authors such as SL Bhyrappa. Then I moved to English classics and read John Paul Sartre and Charles Dickens. In 2001, I decided to open a bookstall of my own on Church Street. Three years later, it would become Bookworm.

To be able to open my own bookshop has been my greatest experience of freedom. I was able to make a living out of my passion and I am thankful for that. In the early days, it was financially difficult but within a year, I was stable. Even in those days, we had good customers. Historian Ramachandra Guha has been a regular since 2006.

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Today, we get our books from sources whom we have cultivated over the last 26 years; many of our customers bring us old books. For instance, we were able to get former secretary to the Government of India, VP Menon’s personal book collection. In many ways, I feel my store gives me the freedom to work as I wish, to contribute to society with rare books which are out of print.

As told to Arnav Chandrashekar

First published on: 13-08-2023 at 05:45 IST
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