Ground Report | New Delhi: Syed Isaaq, a librarian; Library owner, and daily wage earner Syed Isaaq still remembers the morning of April 9, 2021, when his library Rajiv Nagar was burnt down by miscreants in the Mysore city of Karnataka.
Who is Syed Isaaq
Syed Isaaq (63), a daily wage earner and semi-educated, ran a free library to spread reading habits among fellow citizens. Isaaq, a resident of Srirangapatna, says that he did not want others to be deprived of education, so he started a library in a Muslim area of Mysore.
Syed Isaaq could not maintain a family of 8 people. So I would work in other people’s homes in exchange for 2 meals a day and a place to live. So, at the age of 26, when I became a father, I decided- ‘I can’t read but I will make sure my kids go to school.’ So, along with doing odd jobs at the local grocery store, I started cleaning toilets to earn more money; I used to earn around Rs 60 per day.
When his library got burnt
On the morning of April 9, 2021, his library Rajiv Nagar was burnt down by miscreants in the Mysore city of Karnataka. “At 4 am, a person living next to the library informed me that there was a fire inside. When I ran to the library, which is only a stone away, I could only see them turning to ashes,” Isaaq told The Indian Express.
“Nothing is bigger than books. I rather, they burned me. My library was partially broken three times in the past. Now they have destroyed everything. But I’m not going to keep quiet. I have filed a complaint with Udayagiri police and I will rebuild my library,” he says.
Syed Isaaq, a librarian
In 2011, he built the library with the help of his wife Shaheen Taj, the local establishment holding various books in the Kannada language (as well as English and Urdu), newspapers and several copies of the Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Quran and the Bible. He accepted any and all donations that came his way because he wished for a secular library where “all religions are treated equally.”
More than 100-150 people used to visit his library daily. Isaaq will buy more than 17 newspapers including Kannada, English, Urdu, and Tamil.
About 85% of the books in his library collection were in Kannada while many were in English and Urdu. “The library had over 3,000 excellent collections of the Bhagavad Gita, over 1,000 copies of the Quran and Bible, and thousands of books in different genres that I received from donors,” he says.
Although he did not spend money out of his own pocket, he used to spend around Rs 6,000 on the maintenance of the library and the purchase of newspapers.
Over the past 10 years, he managed to stack over 11,000 books in the library—every day, 100 to 150 people visit his library. After work, I would chat with them; We will exchange knowledge on various subjects.
How he got funds from Infosys and returned it
Infosys Technology Lead Fatheen Misbah started an online fundraiser which managed to collect Rs. 20 million to help Isaac restore his library. After learning that Isaac was working on corporate land, Misbah also spoke to the city’s urban development officials to consider handing over the land to a daily wage labourer.
Online bookstore MyLang Books (books worth Rs 10,000) will also see an influx of books, while various publications have promised to donate 5,000 books to the local library.