a bookshop with a heart

On a visit to this beautiful book shop – a venerable landmark of Bangalore – found that it might soon be closed. The lease for it is over and the the money-minded owner dosen’t want to renew it. Mr. Shanbag was pretty tranquil about it, he calmly explained that he’s trying to either extend it, look for another place or various other options. He’ll definitely be there till the
end of April atleast.

Here are some excerpts from the net… if its too long, just skip to the last highlighted part…


From the Deccan Herald:

The Premier Bookshop is a favourite haunt for many a Bangalorean bibliophile. Mr Shanbhag, the propreitor makes buying book s pleasurable

I have frequented many bookshops in five countries spread over three continents but of all such establishments I have had the pleasure of visiting the Premier Bookshop on Museum Road in Bangalore, whose proprietor is Mr T S Shanbhag, is I feel unique in more ways than one.

Established in 1971, it is a medium-sized establishment covering some 600 sq ft, but the place is crammed with books covering almost every imaginable subject. The stock at any given time is about a lakh, according to Mr Shanbhag. This is more than that of many larger shops. Mr Shanbhag has achieved this feat in an unusual way by stocking the books horizontally along the walls and two island-like blocks in the centre too, rather than vertically and neatly in display shelves as in most other bookshops.

Rather than speak of stacks, it would, probably, be more accurate to describe them as piles. These piles of books supported by platforms at various levels almost reach up to the ceiling.

The potential customer, who is often just a browser, who tries to take out a volume, not infrequently brings down a good many others, sometimes a whole pile on to the floor, if not onto himself or herself.

One might suppose from this that Premiers is not user-friendly, to use a word much bandied about these days. However, the geniality of Mr Shanbhag and the helping hand of him and his assistants more than make up for this. If people bring some books tumbling down, Mr Shanbhag brushes aside their often sheepish apologies and he doesn’t seem to be in the least upset by the
upsetting of his valuable stock.

All that apart, Mr Shanbhag is very knowledgeble about books and is able most of the time to successfully link titles to their authors and publishers.

He has an unusually precise idea of what he has and even how many copies of a book are remaining at any given moment.

He is a man who doesn’t seem to need a computer and, in fact, lends support to the view that a person with a clear and organised mind is superior to the so-called electronic brain which is prone to some baffling and even amusing mechanical errors.

What is most pleasing about the place is that it has a friendly ambience. One doesn’t feel that one is merely shopping for books in a purely commercial establishment. The fact that the system, if one can so call it, may not appear to be convenient to the user is totally irrelevant at
Premiers. The eagerness to assist in a very personal and, one might even add, a human way is very apparent.

One might add that Mr Shanbhag gives generous discounts to many regular customers who invariably first resort to Premiers when they are looking for a particular book. Again, the extremely helpful proprietor almost never hesitates to try to get you a book he doesn’t have as soon as possible.

I have also noticed that he unhesitatingly directs people to other shops in the vicinity which may keep books of a kind he doesn’t normally deal in. A person entering Premiers for the first time could find the place a little flabbergasting, even forbidding, but his or her attitude is likely to change after a few more visits to the place.

Getting to know a bookshop like Premiers is a pleasant and rare experience. The unconventional manner of display, with heaps of books separated by passages which can be negotiated only in single-file, make the place a sort of treasure house of the printed word and this is what gives it a special charm of its own.

source: Deccan Herald: Bangalore’s premier bookshop – V Shankar Charry

From The Hindu:

courtesy: the Hindu newspaper

Mr. Shanbagh was, and continues to be, most generous with credit, allowing you to walk away with books of your choice without demanding immediate payment or even an IOU. Perhaps he realised the importance of nurturing this pre-TV generations’ love of the printed word; perhaps the dozens of other more saleable books made it possible to await delayed payment. Whatever the reasons, most of the foreign books could be paid for by young people across the city only over a period of several months, by which time the well thumbed volume may have had many readers, and perhaps an entire discussion group. But it was never Mr. Shanbagh’s intention to reach beyond his self-description as a bookseller, though at least some early visitors who inadvertently asked for textbooks were soberly reminded they were in a bookshop.

For one who runs a bookshop, Mr. Shanbagh is a man of few words, and is rarely drawn into a long conversation. No wonder, at the felicitation organised by Ram Guha and Sujatha Kesavan to celebrate 30 years of Premier Bookshop he answered the fulsome praise of those present in the only way he knew. He handed out copies of the new Rupa edition of Rabindra Rachanabali to all those present!! It is his kind, if rather terse and gruff manner that has turned his shop into an excellent meeting place for people and ideas.

Way back in 1971, Mr. Shanbagh did not realise, in his generous encouragement of indebted readers that he was sowing the seeds of ambition among many writers.

As his small table has disappeared under the piles of books which now prop up his receipt book, Mr. Shanbagh will have no truck with the computer, trusting only his little portable and his own “hard disk.”

The bloating of the city has grievously injured public manners, and bent even the gentlest of wills into brutal self-absorption. Yet here, for someone who nurtured a whole generation of impoverished readers whose ambitions outstripped their abilities, Mr. Shanbagh has kept the credit card wielding customer at bay, preferring to trust people in his own informal way, and allowing them to remember their dues.

No other bookshop quite matches up to Premier’s quiet confidence in readers. In addition to the customary discounts, which I foolishly believed were only for the chosen few, not even the largest bag is prevented from entering the shop, and no CCTV keeps an eye on prospective pilferers. Even better, as far as I know, there is no bar on talking or reading aloud!

source: The Hindu: Conversation with books – Janaki Nair


Reading these articles, and also based on what I’ve seen of him in the the few times I’ve interacted in his shop which matches the descriptions well (though I haven’t been one of the long
term visitors to have known all the other details), I can’t help feeling a lot of respect and admiration for him. A thorough gentleman who deserves to be profiled on some site like ijourney.org or goodnewsindia, though such people generally shun publicity and try and keep to themselves… not that he’d care about any publicity, but simply as an inspiration to others that such people… and such possibilities… also exist! 🙂

My friend had been recommending a copy of the Razor’s Edge (by Somerset Maughm) so much that he’d been looking at quite a few bookshops to even buy it for me! But they all had seemed to be out of stock. So without much hope I asked for it here, and his assistant got it for me in an instant!

I’m still hopeful and optimistic that the shop will survive… that the heart will continue to beat…

7 Responses to “a bookshop with a heart”

  1. Shruthi Says:

    Oh yes.. read about it.. very unfortunate indeed.
    Generations of book-lovers in my family have been finding unexpected treasures out here… Sigh! Should all good things always come to an end?

  2. Henry David Thorough Says:

    I appreciated your feedback on Stella’s blog, and have enjoyed what little I have read of yours. I would like to link to you, and please let me know if you object.

    This story of the bookstore reminds me of so much from the old suburb of St. Louis, MO where I grew up. There was an old dry goods store that sold Levi’s and all kinds of other work clothes. It was called Rudolph’s after the owner’s name… Mr. Rudolph. He had all kinds of odd sizes and it was such a joy to find old, out of stock models available that you couldn’t have found in any mall. It was crowded (not quite as crowded as the Premier Bookstore), but it was the greatest place to walk up and down the aisle’s looking for something unique. There were several times when I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, and would describe it to Mr. Rudolph, who would mumble something, go down into the cellar and come back with exactly what I was looking for or something even better.

    Nice to meet you!

  3. msanjay Says:

    I STRONGLY OBJECT TO LINKING TO MY SITE, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO DO THAT… isn’t something I’d say 😉 Link and be linked is the general open-source blogging policy and I’m no exception. Nice to meet you too Henry! You might’ve seen this, there’s actually a blog by the other Henry – Henry David Thoreau.

    I’ve been to US (Seattle, WA) once and I think I’ve seen some small shops like this one… though I’d never spoken to the owner except for buying – hmm maybe I should’ve spoken to him 🙂 but browsing through them was quite a change from the usual Wallmart experience 🙂

  4. msanjay Says:

    Shruti, I’m still hopeful… Btw visited it yesterday but he didn’t have any latest news.

  5. Sudha Y Says:

    Hi Sanjay, I too have had a pleasurable experience in shopping there! Sad that such a warm place may cease to exist 🙁


  6. bellur ramakrishna Says:


    Good news at last for Book lovers. ‘Premier Bookstore’ is going to stay till 2007. News of imminent closure because the shop owner refused to extend the lease did the rounds in 2005-6. But thanks to the media and bloggers exposure and concerns, it has been postponed till April 2007.

    It seems some sort of an unofficial agreement has been reached between Shanbhag and the owner.

  7. msanjay Says:

    Thanks Bellur for the news and on top of it remembering to come and post it here! That’s really cool!! 8)

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