I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed when I visited the Anna Centenary Library. I love the public library system in the US and always wished that something similar had existed in India (the British Library in Pune was the closest, but it offered only paid subscriptions and a catalogue mostly limited to the United Kingdom). For the first time, I saw hope as I explored the floors of the library.
And then Amma's crusade against all the edifices erected by her predecessor headed to Kotturpuram. The library was Amma's next salvo against Anna. Once again she wanted a hospital in its place. So far, such a hospital has not been set up in India. By establishing a super speciality hospital dedicated to interests of children, it is certain that Tamil Nadu would [sic] emerge as the top ranking State in protecting the interests of children, she was quoted as saying.
And what happens to the contents of the library? Amma plans to move them to the proposed Integrated Knowledge Park on the DPI (Directorate of Public Instruction) campus in Nungambakkam citing some reasons for this being a very ideal place. Nobody said anything about whether her government plans to be fair with space. I find it hard to believe that they're going to match square foot for square foot and floor for floor. Books in a bookshelf are likely to end up packed in boxes.
But I exaggerate. I shouldn't be cavilling about this. After all, a hospital is a noble thing to have (I trust that the hospital will be generous to all children in need of medical assistance). But so is a library. Surely there are condemned structures around town that can be torn down and replaced with her hospital. Surely there are other locations in the metropolis that deserve a facelift for the better.
But Amma must have this building.
Not because its location works better for a hospital than for a library.
Not because its interior design and layout are more conducive for hospital beds, labs and offices than for bookshelves, reading desks and couches.
But because Anna made it.
How people can elect such bickering people into office is beyond me.
Mercifully, the Madras High Court has restrained the State government from moving the library. Perhaps good sense will prevail and I'll still expect to see books on shelves and see people sitting at the desks reading and studying instead of dealing with the smell of disinfectant.
(the title of this post paraphrases the opening line of Ray Bradbury's most famous book, which seems quite appropriate for the occasion)