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Modern goes the bookstore

The Modern Book Centre opens its new showroom on Gandhari Amman Kovil Road today.


THE MODERN Book Centre (MBC) had its humble beginnings 25 years ago when Thiruvananthapuram was no more than a small town. Those were times defined by greater cultural vibrancy and keener sensitivity to novel ideas. In short, it was the time of books and MBC, true to its name, took up the task of introducing book lovers to modern ideas. P. Govinda Pillai, scholar, political ideologue and voracious reader of books, observes, "Many of us who were eager to read the latest books in English, both fiction and non-fiction, had to rely on bookshops outside the State. During those days, N. E. Balakesavan, the owner of MBC and Pai of Pai & Co, were the leading English booksellers in Kerala. Most of the other bookshops sold school and college textbooks. Hardly any of these bookshops cared much for English books published in India or abroad. MBC, however, was as an exception."

The hallmark of such a bookshop is its readiness to provide readers with a rich selection of books rather than a mere collection of them. MBC, clearly, is one such bookshop. It does not sell cheap sensational books. The bookstore stocks the latest books on literary and cultural theory along with recent titles in post-modern fiction. Classics and books on the ongoing East-West dialogue abound at the bookstore. It also has a sizeable collection of works in popular science. Socrates to Sartre, Darwin to Dawkins - you will find them all at the store. Browse through the shelves and you'll find thrillers, children's books and books on computers, management and Information Technology. Truly, the bookstore provides an inter-disciplinary network of books, a real feast for bibliophiles. Literary luminaries and cultural figures have been regular visitors to the bookstore, which has always promoted interaction and exchange of ideas between authors and readers.


M. Krishnan Nair, renowned literary journalist and critic, is a daily visitor to the shop. Everyday, he carries with him a few titles to be reviewed in his column.

"My association with MBC dates back to the time of its inception in 1979. Reading enhances learning. When learning ceases, an individual becomes culturally impoverished. Cultural impoverishment results in social decay, which in turn brings about the collapse of civilization. MBC has done yeoman service in the dissemination of knowledge and culture."

Has the Internet replaced the book? "Definitely no," says N. E. Sudheer, manager of MBC. He adds, "The sale of serious books has gone up. We feel the Internet has only increased the appetite for substantial reading. The book knows no death."


Arun Kumar, a college student has been a regular client. Says Arun: "If I've been coming here for years to purchase books, it is because the staff here assists me in finding the book. I am given an attractive discount since I am a regular here." Hridya, on the other hand, has a complaint. A young housewife, Hridya says, "I am a frequent visitor but I feel the shop lacks sufficient space for easy mobility."

The dearth of space in the shop has been a problem for both the owner and the customer alike. To overcome this problem, the bookstore, which is celebrating its Silver Jubilee, opens its new showroom on the Gandhari Amman Kovil Road today.

K. SENTHIL KUMAR

Photos: S. Gopakumar
S. Mahinsha

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