After reading a very short, Twitter biography of Sapna Book House founder Suresh Shah, who died of on Tuesday, a Twitter user described him thus: “Rags to riches No in fact Rags to racks of Books (sic)”. Eighty-four-year-old Suresh Shah, who was Covid-19 positive, was hospitalised on May 1 in Sheshadripuram, and breathed his last on Tuesday after he developed cardiac complications. The news comes close on the heels of the death of T S Shanbhag, the owner of Premier Bookshop.
The loss of the founders of two of Bengaluru’s iconic book shops has created a sense of sadness among bibliophiles. Twitter user Gurudatta R (@Guruofcrusaders) was on point. Hailing from Mumbai, Shah initially worked as a porter at Dadar Railway Station before moving to Bengaluru in 1965. Then a young man, Shah sold lottery tickets at a store in Gandhinagar. His hard work paid off, and lady luck graced him. He opened a small book store in the same area and named it Sapna Book House. Over the years, he built it into a well-known and muchloved franchise wi th 19 branches across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The chain is now run by Shah’s sons and grandson Nijesh Shah.
“There were many upcoming Kannada writers and investing in their books was difficult. Unlike now, the investments used to be huge back then. And there was no guarantee that the book would sell,” says Srinivas. That’s when Sapna started publishing books.
Srinivas, who was then a sales representative of Rupa and Co. and was handling the publisher’s sales in southern India, recalls that Shah had published works of Shivaram Karanth, Nisar Ahmed and others. Atmaram N Gangaram, founder of Gangaram Book Bureau, also knew Shah from the 1970s. “He was a very hardworking person. “He started it very small but achieved huge success. He was socially connected and did a lot for the Gujarati association,” recalls Gangaram.