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Mumbai’s Karimi Library on course to regain lost glory

Monday January 23, 2012 02:22:15 PM, Aleem Faizee, ummid.com

Karimi Library's main hall

Malegaon: Owen Meredith says, “It is, however, not to the museum, or the lecture-room, or the drawing-school, but to the library, that we must go for the completion of our humanity. It is books that bear from age to age the intellectual wealth of the world.” Mark Twain says, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.” It is only if such lessons are forgotten that a management would turn a blind eye to institutions like Karimi Library, which was founded well over 115 years ago and could have easily been converted into a model and extraordinary hub of knowledge and research by now.


However, thanks to the current President of Anjuman-e-Islam (Mumbai), Dr Zahir Qazi, his close aide Moinulhaq Chowdhary and other members who, using the huge amount of money donated by Haji Abdur Razzaq Kalsekar, made it a priority to give the much needed facelift to the Karimi Libray, located inside the Anjuman's VT premises in South Mumbai. After this move, it now looks certain that the library, which was lying moribund and disused for over four decades, would regain its lost glory.

 

It seems that the faith of the founders of the Karimi Library surpassed that of the people who intentionally or unintentionally pushed this literary heritage to an imminent annihilation. This is perhaps why the thought to save the library came into the mind of President of the Anjuman Dr. Zahir Qazi.

Exact date of establishment of the library having a legendary literary history is not clear. But on the basis of an annual report dated August 05, 1898 of the Anjuman, noted scholar Shamim Tariq estimates that it was founded sometimes in 1897 at the behest of Qazi Abdul Karim Pulbandari who wanted to honour the appointment of his friend Qazi Kabeeruddin at the Anjuman. Unlike the date, motives behind establishment of the library are loud and clear.


“The library should have all books in Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages. But at the same time, it should also have a special budget of at least rupees 1000 for books in English and Gujarati. Once ready, it should be made accessible to Muslims free of cost”, Shamim Tariq quotes Qazi Abdul Kareem as writing in one of his communiqués to the Anjuman. Qazi Kareem also promised in his letter to take care of the entire fund needed for purchase of the books, basic infrastructure and furniture.


It was the time when Justice Badruddin Tyebji, the visionary founder of the Anjuman, was its president and who had in his team equally visionary people to assist him. They all gave such an impressive shape to the Karimi Library that it soon became darling of the researchers and scholars, and also the ordinary readers. Not only in terms of infrastructure but in terms of collection of books too the library was unique and was regarded as one of the best. But, like Anjuman-e-Islam, the Karimi Library also could not earn favour of the Nawabs and Rulers of the erstwhile Princely States who otherwise were donating regular amounts to other institutions for their smooth running.


Post independence the situation worsened even more and to run the library any further became difficult for the management. Soon Karimi Library was removed from the priority list of the people at the helm of the affairs in ‘70s. Not very long after this, the library saw its doors closed and the huge collection of the books abandoned like leftover scrap papers and at the mercy of termites.

 

A committee headed by Moinulhaq Chowdhary was formed in 2009 which immediately began the renovation work to give a new life to the Karmi Library. After an effort of six months and some artistic maneuver by Moinulhaq Chowdhary the library got total facelift.

However, it seems that the faith of the founders of the Karimi Library surpassed that of the people who intentionally or unintentionally pushed this literary heritage to an imminent annihilation. This is perhaps why the thought to save the library came into the mind of President of the Anjuman Dr. Zahir Qazi. He formed a committee in 2009 headed by Moinulhaq Chowdhary which immediately began the renovation work to give a new life to the library. After an effort of six months and some artistic maneuver by Moinulhaq Chowdhary the library got total facelift. In next six months, they began the tough task of restoring the huge collection of the books.

 

“After a sustained labour of more than six months we could save about 7800 books. Of them only 1400 are in good condition. To restore the rest, we are trying everything in our hands and using all means and help from the professionals”, Shamim Tariq who is tirelessly working for revival of the Karimi Library and restoration of the books said to ummid.com.


Covering wide-ranging topics, the restored books - in over half a dozen languages including Urdu, Arabic Persian, Gujarati, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Malyali and even Marathi, are rarest of rare. Most of them are published well over 150-200 years before. A testimony of the secular outlook of the library founders, the collection also includes the books on all faiths including Hinduism written in Urdu and Persian languages. And, the library has already started impressing its visitors.


“A golden collection! Very precious, very valuable!! Looking at these books, magazines, journals and newspapers I can only imagine what the library would have been in its original avatar”, Prof Asghar Abbas, former Head of the Urdu Department, Aligrah Muslim University (AMU) said after his recent visit to the library.


Prof Asghar’s remarks are sufficient to state that the Karimi Library is on course to regain its lost glory. But, the question which perhaps will always remain unanswered is, who actually is responsible for such a huge loss to the community’s valuable literary asset? Ironically, far from finding an answer to this question, the management due to the damages of more than forty years to the library cannot even estimate, what was the exact number of books it originally had, and how much of this total is destroyed, stolen or gifted away.







 

 

 

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