Books @ Eloor: Grilled and Steamed

“Oh, I have a point!” shouts out Elle Woods, in that blondest of blonde movies: “Legally Blonde.”

I too, have my point to make about how exactly books and grilled, steamed stuff go together.

But first, a lament about the lost “I-am-a-member-of-a-lending-library” Club.

Perhaps you, when confronted with this statement, will point an accusatory finger at me and say, “How dare you – I still frequent lending libraries!” And if you do, then you would be part of a fast vanishing clique of people who aren’t afraid to own up that book-buying is a remarkably expensive hobby; who value a book’s content much more than what the book looks like … and who still yearn desperately for that absolutely fascinating smell that only old books have. Like the smell of old flowers preserved for an eternity. Of old camphor, of days and years long gone. Of memories resurfacing. Those old signatures and notes scrawled on the sides. Of long undisturbed corridors of happiness travelled again.

You would also become my instant best friend.

It took me a while to understand that to flaunt proudly, this tag of waltzing along the dark and damp corners of a library is not precisely the fashionable thing to do. My colleague, as much a book-lover as I am, wrinkled up her dainty nose when I mentioned how much I loved making expeditions to said libraries.

“But it’s so much better to buy the book, isn’t it?” in that faintly British accent that she’s adopted from God knows where, as she’s never been to that island. It indicated the assumption that one ought to spend hundreds of rupees on buying each and every bestseller, rather than get any book at an affordable price. From then on, her gaze always travelled up and down me in a rather sneering way, I imagined, whenever I mentioned that I’d made a trip to those hallowed halls of pleasure. But what would she know?

What would she know about poking through the shelves of a library like Eloor, for instance?

Where all the bestsellers find their way into racks; where, when they see you earnestly poking about the books they give you a low stool and switch on the fan for your comfort and you can rootle around amazing and unknown authors to your heart’s content.

My landmark to this library is always Kasi Arcade, right behind the GRT Grand Days Hotel – the North Boag Road. It’s an apartment house at Pioneer Homes, Mandira Apartments, converted into a library, and the librarians seem to know any author you mention. There’s only (slight) drawback – the authors are arranged in alphabetical order – by their first names. Makes it very difficult when you know someone only as “Chapman” or “Chopra” … and you’ll have to make a beeline towards Inquiry. Once you know which author is stacked where, it gets easier.

Eloor was originally pointed out to me as one of the most comprehensive libraries re fiction – and I haven’t been disappointed, so far. Much. They’ve got more than fiction too, of course. They could do a better job of stacking Star Wars Science Fiction, but that’s only a personal grudge, as I can never manage to get my favourite Jedi Apprentice Series. I even managed to dig up new and tongue-twisting authors whose work I could relate to. “The Nanny Diaries” was one such gold mine, which afforded me endless hours of amusement and pleasure. So did Dorothy Sayers. P D James. James Herriot. And even though “The Devil Wears Prada” was out on issue, I was assured of the fact it would be back soon [Reading chicklit, I am. So depraved.]. There’s no reservation of copies, though.

Eloor initially charged for the borrowing of books only when you returned them (a system not in vogue in other libraries), but since this system is hardly foolproof and makes borrowers just keep the books, they’ve switched to the “pay-when-issued” system from July 2006. And you can’t keep the books for more than 15 days. Any more, and you’ll have to pay a penalty of 1% on the books for each day you extend. The lending charges are 10% on the total value of the books taken, and there’s a ceiling on that. The initial deposit was Rs 800 when I joined – chances are that it’s increased by now. [Read somewhere that it was Rs. 900.]

As for the grilled and steamed part of it? One hop, skip and jump from there lands you in front of the “Pazhamuthir Nilayam” – where juices are churned out at such a swift rate that they fairly jostle out of their cups – and where there’s this tiny “Grills n Steam” stall for Sweet Corn. Get the chit from the counter, hand it over to the Corn Guy who dips and swirls corn into various tubs of masala, butter and salt, twirls it into silver foil and hands it to you steaming hot … and you’re ready for a marvelous evening of curling up on the sofa with a favourite book and corn to munch. Or a fruit snack.

Or there’s the Gangothri right next door to Eloor, if what you want isn’t a cup of steamed corn but something much more filling.

Either way, Books and Food. I can still see my former colleague’s pained gaze at my penchant for lending libraries and corn on the streets … but what the heck.


9 Comments so far

  1. Lavanya (unregistered) on October 7th, 2006 @ 9:26 pm

    Mmmm….totally yum! *exntends hand* best friends?

  2. david (unregistered) on October 7th, 2006 @ 11:36 pm

    Awesome Pavithra! You’ve awakened long dorment memories of days past spent with my nose buried in books. Borrowed from libraries after spending a delicious amount of time browsing through their racks, immersed in the smell of the wisdom of the ages preserved on paper. You are not alone, I assure you.

  3. SLN (unregistered) on October 8th, 2006 @ 12:47 am

    Ha, lending libraries. You have re-kindled mucho memories. Thanks. A small library in W.Mambalam introduced me to English Fiction, while Raviraj in T.Nagar gave me my Ponniyil Selvan and Sivakamiyin Sabatham. Nowadays, I do get my fix (for free) from a local council library in the island.

  4. Navneeth (unregistered) on October 8th, 2006 @ 2:10 am

    Eloor? That name does ring a bell, but I haven’t personally visited the place. May be I should on of these days.

    Thanks for the article.

    P.S. Is that sweet corn thing the one that costs 25 Rupees for a cup the size of a மூக்கு பொடி டப்பா?

  5. Shobha (unregistered) on October 8th, 2006 @ 3:06 am

    I left Madras 10 years ago…Eloor had just opened then and I was so excited at the prospect of a new library as I had pretty much finished every book in Easwari and Raviraj!! Brings back memories…now a Gangothri next to it? Life cannot get better!!

  6. vinod (unregistered) on October 8th, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

    hey, i remember eloor, the last i went there if i rite was in 2001, my frined was a member there and i remember picking up some management books… they had a good collection of them… do they still do? i must check this place out…

  7. suppamani (unregistered) on October 9th, 2006 @ 8:41 pm


  8. Nithya (unregistered) on October 11th, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

    wow, Pavithra, been wanting to explore this library and you reminded me. You’re right, buying books all the time is an expensive proposition. I have heard that Eloor gets new books pretty fast, is that true?

  9. Pavithra (unregistered) on October 11th, 2006 @ 8:59 pm

    Lavanya: Lol. Oh yeah. Bestest friends, yumm!

    david: Thanks. Long live the League of Book-lovers. More power to us. Nostlagia is always sweet.

    SLN: Cool. I used to be a member of Raviraj too -I loved poking through that little room, and the stacks of books he used to have upstairs … wow. But it was hard work picking through it all.

    Navneeth: It’s twenty a cup and isn’t as small as a மூக்கு பொடி டப்பா … well okay, maybe it’s slightly a little larger. :P But I can’t locate one near enough, and am rather an addict of sweet corn – so …

    And you ought to visit Eloor. You won’t regret it.

    Shobha: Indeed. Eloor hasn’t run out of books, so far. And I hope it won’t. :)

    vinod: Oh yes, they’ve got books on many subjects. I’ve been meaning to check out the Film and Photography section … must do, one of these days.

    suppamani: Lol.

    Nithya: Quite fast, yes. I’m sure of finding new releases pretty quick, as they make purchases from the bookstores themselves. You’ll find it worth it, I think. :)

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