Hall of fame : Honouring the Strand's Shanbhag

Hall of fame  : Honouring the Strand

On the occasion of world book day we recollect the memories of 'Strand Book Stall' owner Padma Shri TN Shanbhag Dr J Hanumath Sastri Shanbhag was a...

On the occasion of world book day we recollect the memories of 'Strand Book Stall' owner Padma Shri TN Shanbhag

Dr J Hanumath Sastri

hal2Shanbhag was a great lover of books. He used to supply books at a low price. Strand Book Stall that he started in Mumbai changed in time to a wishing tree for book lovers in the country.A With just Rs 425, TN Shanbhag started a book stand on November 20, 1948. Not looking upon a book trade as a lucrative business, he hoped to distribute knowledge and aesthetic pleasure found in good books.

The birth of Shan's book stall happened to be novel experience. Once Shanbhag saw the vacant site beside the Star and Cinema theatre in Mumbai. The site was in a corner. Shan thought that it was place for his book stand. By then he had neither had any experience in book trade, nor capital enough for the purpose.

There was then with him a balance of Rs 450 after spending the scholarship he had got as a student. He straightway met KK Modi, the owner of Strand Theatre. Modi, a proprietor of 55 cinema theatres, was sensible of the enthusiasm of young man to start a book stall. Modi not only gave away the site to Shan, but also built a stall there for Shan's book trade. From that day on, that bookshop has become famous as a centre for books on various subjects.

Shanbhag was born of a small provision shop merchant on 26 August, 1925 at a village Tekkatte near Mangalore. Two years after Shan's birth, his father passed away. His father's younger brother took the ship into his hands. The orphaned boy was very intelligent. He joined a school Recognising the merit of the boy, the Headmaster helped him get a scholarship of Rs 12 per month. The boy spent Rs 9 and saved the rest.

With the amount he thus saved for two years, he bought the complete works of Swami Vivekananda published by the Advait Ashram. With time Shan's craziness for books increased. He studied all the books in the school library. In his seventeenth year, he joined St. Xavier College in Mumbai. Doing little pieces of work for a living, Shan read stories of Plato, Aristotle and so on.

Once, Shan went to a book shop as he was looking into books, the shop keeper said words that pained Shan. He felt that the shop keeper was running the shop as a business concern rather than as a centre of knowledge. Shan decided to start a book shop himself after completing his degree.

Shanbhag infact started his own book shop on 20 November, 1949. The first customer was an English millionaire Richard Burton. He was the chairman of eight big oil companies. Shan gave him a handsome discount of 20%. There was in those days no book seller that could give 20% discount. Shan thought that a small profit would do for his living. Once, late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru bought some books in Shan's shop. Having seen the bill, Nehru asked how he was able to give such a huge discount. Shan replied, you are governing the country. As a citizen of the country, it is not my duty to give the maximum possible discount?"

In course of time, JRD Tata, Nani Palkhivala, Birla, Kesava Mahendra, Ambalal Sarabhai, APJ Abdul Kalam, Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan and so on were visitors to Shan's book shop for its intellectual utility. In 2003 Government of India honoured Shanbhag with 'Padma Shri' and was declared the celebrity of that year. He is the first of book sellers to receive the award. He also opened branches of Strand Book Stall in various places. Living a blessed life of service, Shanbhag, book-seller par excellence, passed away on February 27, 2009.

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