Think of a large, old building in an former industrial area of Bombay city. No windows were visible on the ground floor. An old doorman sat in a little porch leading to an elaborately carved wooden door. After managing to get him to call somebody, I was taken inside and conducted upstairs.
My purpose was to look for Sanskrit works helpful to my researches in the history of Indian astrology. Upstairs everything was quiet. The windows were shuttered against the sun. There was a wooden table and chairs, of the familiar office style. Several men in business suits quietly gathered.
The man in charge explained that one could not simply browse. (For one thing, their publications are often in the form of loose sheets which come wrapped in thin brown paper.) When I requested a catalogue, someone was sent to fetch one.
I had seen the catalogue in Delhi, and had obtained all I wanted from it already.
I walk briskly down the crowded Pune street and find the archway set back from the busy shops. Passing through the entrance seems to take one into a different world. The place is a cross between an ashram and a printing press. Trees grow in the courtyard, which is surrounded by various buildings. Sitting cross-legged on the grass is a man collating the sheets of a book.
The man in charge is very friendly. The book I ask for is 'out of print', but as we talk, he mentions that he wants to send his catalogue to Sanskrit Departments of overseas universities. I volunteer to send him a list of names and addresses, which I know is available from a book in the library of St Stephen's College, Delhi, where I am teaching at that time.
He gives me a cup of tea, and disappears. He returns with a copy of the book I need (the Taittirîya Brâhmana), the paper slightly brittle with age, but still very serviceable.
On my return to Delhi I promptly send him the list, and quickly receive an acknowledgment.
Last updated: 8 March 2008