We live in a digital era where gaining access to books or information is just a few clicks away. It wasn’t the case 50 years ago when people had to travel long and far for the same. It was at that time that Krishnamurthy started his library - Gnanalaya - with just hundred books.
Though Gnanalaya was started in 1959, it did not belong to any one city or district. Krishnamurthy, a government school teacher, took his collection of books wherever he got a transfer of job. It was only after his retirement that he decided to settle down in Pudhukottai, Tamil Nadu.
Interestingly, it was love for books that united Dorothy and Krishnamurthy and now the couple own and maintain Gnanalaya - Tamil Nadu's second largest and one of India's largest private libraries. Talking about the reason behind his fascination with books, he said,
My father was passionate about reading and he read a lot. My obsession with books was inspired by him and I started the library in 1959 with 100 books.
Seventy-five-years old now, Krishnamurthy has collected more than one lakh books both in English and Tamil with support from his wife. The library has a lot of first edition books in Tamil and the classics date back to as early as 1500s. In fact, Thambiran Vvanakkam, first Tamil book ever to be printed, is also part of the library's collection.
Krishnamurthy did not collect just the books that he wanted to read, but traveled the length and breadth of Tamil Nadu to find books that will add value to his collection.
Apart from writers and politicians from India, a lot of people from abroad too have visited the library for research purposes. On an average, the couple spend Rs 2 lakh every year on maintaining the library and the money comes from their pockets.
Krishnamurthy's vision for Gnanalaya is to digitise all the books in the library. With him ageing, he is looking forward to either the government or an educational institution taking over responsibilities for the library.
Read this in Tamil.