Forgotten Places of Mumbai: Time travel to the past at The David Sassoon Library and The Reading Room

Tall buildings, broad beaches, elegant cafes, and pricey restaurants characterise Mumbai life. But there are some structures and places that people are forgetting now. FPJ features some of them in a series

Vaishnavi SharmaUpdated: Sunday, April 24, 2022, 12:50 PM IST
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The David Sassoon Library and The Reading Room, which was built in 1847 and stands tall in the heart of Mumbai’s business centre, Fort, is one such site. It was the first structure to rise on the Esplanade’s southern end. This piece of heritage with a long-standing history is named after Sir David Sassoon, a prominent Mumbai banker who donated Rs 60,000 to the government to create a Mechanic’s

Institute, presently known as the David Sassoon Library. It is one of the 145 old buildings the government has declared as protected monuments.

Apart from its rich history, the magnificent architecture dazzles you. Visiting the library is like travelling back to Bombay’s golden age, when literature and art filled the air with the scent of refinement and a passion for human curiosity and wonder.

The paintings of old Bombay, the soft illumination in the lobby, and the chandeliers sing a sweet symphony. To break the monotony of the neutrals and the geometrics of the place, the venue

also has a lush garden in the backyard and a terrace where you can relax with a book. That’s not all! The library provides 13 hours of free reading every day, free Wi-Fi, lockers, charger for your gadgets on all tables, and tea and snacks.

The library has a vast collection of books in Hindi, English, Marathi, Gujarati, and other languages, as well as archives and a few other items. The facility is temporarily closed for renovations and revitalisation. Keeping such an antique structure in good shape necessitates regular and timely maintenance.

Author Ray Bradbury shows brilliantly how roots wither, followed by the culture that gives a place its identity, through one of his famous quotes: “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” The spirit of the city actually dwells in this culture, and with the resurgence of that spirit, I write to you as a reminder to nurture your roots and continue to enjoy the fruit for as long as possible.

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