San Ramon: At the county library in my neighbourhood, in California, I was pleased/amused to note a placard in vernacular saying, 'Hindi and Gujarati books are available'. Pleased, because it was a matter of pride that our books have found a place in a ‘firangi’ library; and amused by the fact that an overwhelming number of visitors to the library would have no clue to what the placard says. If the idea was to attract the Hindi/Gujarati knowing readers, they needn’t have taken the trouble, for ‘desis’ who use libraries in this part of the world are usually familiar with plain English.
But then the vernacular placard attracted everyone’s attention; it provided a cosmopolitan touch to the setting. County libraries in the US stock foreign language books, video tapes and CDs. Fremont, Calif., library has a shelf full of Hindi and Punjabi film cassettes and CDs. So has the main city library at San Francisco. My wife and I got from Union City county library some movies we couldn’t get to watch back home, in Mysore – classics such as Guru Dutt’s ‘Pyasa’ and some Bimal Roy movies. The library had most episode-wise collection of mega serials, ‘Ramayana’ and Ramanand Sagar’s TV epic ‘Mahabharatha’.
I don’t suppose these video-tapes found their way to the library shelf because the county librarian at Fremont or Union City took a conscious decision and said, ‘Let’s get ‘Ramayana’ or a Gurdass Mann Punjabi movie’. Chances are these video cassettes and books for San Ramon library have been gifted to libraries by benevolent NRIs or local Indian community associations. Wonder if the Indian consulate in San Francisco takes initiative in gifting to US community libraries books and CDs.
The placard at San Ramon library set me thinking, if they can have Hindi and Gujarati, why not books and CDs in Kannada. Imagine Kevempu’s collection or video CD of the movie ‘Beru’ being made available in one’s neibourhood library in the US. Kannada Sanghas could take initiative in mobilizing local residents to donate books. The next time they hold a Kannada literary/cultural conference in the Bay Area, Chicago, New Jersey or wherever, an appeal should be made to the invitee writers and others from India that they would do well to mobilize collection of books and CDs in Karnataka for donation to public libraries in the US or elsewhere in the world.