Chennai: Mylapore’s famous Alwar Kadai had been the one-stop destination for bibliophiles for many years mainly because of two reasons: One, due to its impeccable collection of rare books and two, due to its founder Alwar.
R K Alwar started the roadside book stall way back in the 1940s on the pavement near Luz Corner signal. He had a vast collection of rare books and made sure that none of his customers went back empty-handed. This quality of his attracted many celebrities like Arignar Anna, MGR, Cho Ramaswamy, Nagesh and more.
“My father, though being illiterate, wanted others to study well and he has given lots of books to poor students free of cost. Now, they are all placed well in society and come back to thank my father,” says Julie, the eldest daughter of Alwar. During the end of the December last year, Alwar passed away and it is now Julie and her three sisters who continue to run the shop.
“For my father, books were his world. Even in his deathbed, his mind was always on the books. Even we spent our childhood here so we don’t want to shut it down,” says Julie.
Julie, a single-parent whose entire income is dependent on the shop, says that with changing times, the number of customers has reduced along with the number of books.
“Earlier there used to be a lot of books spread over the entire breadth of the pavement. Now, the corporation has set norms and the size of the shop has been reduced which resulted in reduction of number of books. Also, since customers have shifted to digital life, not many come here to buy the books,” she reasoned.
“Some old customers, however, still continue to give books. Some give it for free and some charge money and if it’s affordable, we buy it,” she explains.
There is also no proper shelter for books as it is covered only by a waterproof sheet. “During monsoon, of course the books get wet. Many books get damaged due to this. After dusk, there is also no proper lighting here and that, too, affects sales,” she adds.
When asked whether there are any plans to shift the shop from the pavement, she says, “There are plans but for that, we need to spend a lot which we can’t at the moment. This place has been like our home and it’s our duty to continue running it from the same place,” she said with feeling.
To donate books or for further details, contact Julie at 89394 24410.