T.S. Shanbhag, owner of legendary Premier Book Shop, passes away
Tributes started pouring in from entire generations of book lovers as news of the passing away of T.S. Shanbhag, the owner of erstwhile legendary Premier Book Shop, came out on Wednesday.
Balakrishna V., his financial advisor,told The Hindu that he turned 84 on May 2. “He was suffering from an infection and then got COVID-19. He was hospitalised for a few days and passed away on Tuesday night,” he said. He is survived by his wife and daughter’s family.
Started in 1971, the bookshop eventually closed down in 2009, the reason being an exponential increase in the rent on Church Street.
Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the legendary Bangalore bookseller, TS Shanbhag. It was the virus that killed him. I owe much of my education (such as it is) to books bought at his Premier Bookshop. My wife and I both grew up reading books bought from Mr Shanbhag and Premier, and so did our children. His warmth and kindliness did not preclude a mischievous sense of humour. A longer tribute to him and his work is in my book “Patriots and Partisans”.
Krishna Gowda of Bookworm, who, in 2016, had hosted a programme with Mr. Shanbhag to reminisce upon an “important piece of Bengaluru’s literary history” after it was closed in 2009, recalled him as the first to start discounts on new books when no one had heard of the concept.
“I have known him for over 11 years, and we learnt about the concept of offering discounts from him. He was the first to start 20% discount on all books in 1978. I also bought many books from him when his shop closed. He was aware of customers’ tastes and would keep track of them. He had a personal relationship with them,” he said.
Mr. Balakrishna said post-retirement too, Mr. Shanbhag, who is originally from Kundapura, would enjoy walking, reading books and would visit regularly bookshops in the central business district. His long list of admirers included Mr. Guha, playwright Girish Karnad, politician George Fernandes and actor Kamal Hasan.
At the Bookworm event too, those in attendance included Mr. Guha and the former Unesco ambassador Chiranjeev Singh. Asked about Premier’s collection of nearly 5 lakh books, Mr. Shanbhag had said, “I gave them all at 60% discount. Change is a part of life. I was already 70 when I closed shop, so why feel emotional?”
He had also pointed out that with the popularity of online retailers increasing, the ‘offline’ shop needed younger minds to run it.
K.S. Sanjay, son of proprietor of Select Bookshop K.K.S. Murthy, another iconic name, said he had not visited Premier regularly since 1999, when he had joined his father.
“Whenever there were new books that were Bengaluru related, he would ask if we want them. We would purchase sometimes. The mindset of readers was also different then. Availability of money for books was less. So due to the discount Premier offered, people would go there. In our shop, since we have many out-of-print books, many would come here,” he recalled.