Pune, the cultural capital of the country has also been historically known as a prestigious seat of knowledge. Monikers like "Oxford of the east" have long been associated with it. It boasts of institutions like Fergusson College, which falls in the elite bracket of the first few colleges of modern India.
With a burgeoning IT sector, as well as the resurgence of science research institutes, it surely should be a dreamland for any sincere student aspiring to reach new heights in academia. The problem is that it only looks promising from a bird's eye view. A worm's eye view has a different story to tell.
To sustain the culture of a knowledge-producing hub, we need to have institutions that can talk of a multitude of resources. Libraries are the havens that act as a solid base to maintain the knowledge edifice. It comes as a rude shock that Pune has few libraries of national, let alone international stature.
|Even Jayakar Library does not count as a public library as it is primarily a part of Pune University.|
The Jayakar library is the only one that comes to mind when you think of places that house books ranging across multiple disciplines. Even that does not count as a public library as it is primarily a part of Pune University.
There are a few places of credibility which are certainly tapped by budding researchers. The Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute or even the dark, dingy place on Bund Garden road that sits on a treasure trove of archival material from the Peshwa period are certainly commendable. But they largely seem like vestiges of the bygone era.
Libraries, like all other monuments or even everyday buildings, comprise time and space. Their four walls signify much more than a place where books are dumped. They have a sense of history, a sense of belonging from the past and a repertoire of memories which come alive as one enters the precincts of the library halls.
The library is a gateway to an unfathomable, yet intriguing world that entices you enough only when you interact with the new as well as the dusty old books inside.
Libraries are those democratic agents who connect the reader with the past complexities. The "political" of the library is big enough to accommodate varied views and opinions. It's a place where two seemingly intractable ideologies of the public domain can find themselves positioned right next to each other. The beauty of it lies in how it happens amicably and without any ruckus.
Like museums, books in the libraries too become a priceless heritage of a kind. To feel and realise the archaic through these books can never be achieved by mere socialising of the social media variety.
The place demands or rather commands obedience and commitment and instils a strong sense of being informed about the present without losing the continuum of the past.
When the city of Pune makes a loud noise about its cultural heritage, it sadly has no place for books and libraries as markers of that cultural identity. More often than not, the famed knowledge city looks a failed model in terms of reviving the same legacy.
Did we really have this culture in the past? Or do the claims of being a knowledge hub hold muster, especially when there is a perceptible rise in sciences and a declining enthusiasm for social sciences at the same time?
These are questions that need to be asked head on. Before claiming a right to something, we need to lay threadbare the significance of a particular right. Is it really a surprise that one fails to find a single comprehensive book on the cultural, social and political history of Pune? Jaimala Didi's Pune: Queen of the Deccan, recently republished by INTACH, remains the only introduction for the "Oxford of the east".
I can't help but feel something is amiss and that surely has got a lot to do with a shoddy attitude toward conserving existing libraries and a lack of vision for the same.
A true understanding of the city can only come if there is the added incentive to forage through precious archival material."Smart city", whatever that is, should ideally be envisaged around libraries and museums. A haphazard management coupled with the sorry attitude of politicians makes it worse.
Surely there are small libraries all over the place. However, they don't serve the purpose as most of them are reluctant in increasing their ambit for the domain of books. The material that talks the language of textbooks isn't exactly the kind that will usher in a revolution of inclusive knowledge.
Big, resourceful libraries are the only panacea as they remain the most fundamental source of an unknown world. A demand for the same must come from the youth and the issue needs to be made part of the pecking order.
Unfortunately, unlike the recent Maratha agitations for reservations, we are never going to pressure the governments for quality institutes, regulation over capitation fees and most importantly, to build a culture of libraries in Pune.
At a time when ebooks have almost singlehandedly seen to it that there is a decline in the number of bookstores in the city, well maintained libraries seem like the only hope for a world that is rapidly becoming technocratic, dishing out technocratic, bureaucratic solutions.
No libraries. We are going to lose out on our hunger to decipher ignorance, handing down a mix of ambiguity and absolute trash to the future generation.