Renga Lending Library : A gem of a lending library in Chennai
During the first trimester of my pregnancy, I fought off dizziness by staying horizontal most of the time. Since I wasn’t big on watching TV, I kept boredom at bay by reading. In a span of three months, I’d devoured the complete Tintin series, Bill Clinton’s My Life, a couple of Stephen King’s novels, and an anthology of novels and short stories by R.K. Narayan. I didn’t have to purchase any one of my prepartum reading materials. All of them came from only one source: Renga Lending Library in Chennai, which was then located in Nanganallur market.
Since giving birth, I’d never set foot in the lending library again. In the meantime, we settled in Manila, and Renga Lending Library shifted premises twice. Now that we are visiting namma Chennai and that Motito has taken to reading admirably well, I felt it was time to introduce him to the library that had seen me through the most difficult phase of my pregnancy.
Renga Lending Library’s new digs on No. 3 Kulakarai St., 1st Lane, Nanganallur, exude the same welcoming atmosphere of its previous locations. Shelves are crammed with fiction and non-fiction books by Indian and foreign authors. Strategically placed chairs invite patrons to browse with leisure. The cheerful owner and a lady assistant ask if you need any help, but there is no pressure to hurry. The overwhelming feeling of “so many books, so little time” descends upon you as you sift through rack upon rack of children’s favorites, bestsellers, biographies, comic books, award-winners, and rare titles. Be mindful of Inception-inspired shelving: rows of books hide behind visible rows of books.
Renga Lending Library is a revered institution among book lovers in south Chennai. Motito’s father, a longtime Nanganallur resident, swears that it is the most well-stocked lending library this side of Madras. He likes to wax nostalgic about how the lending library satiated his hunger for books as a student on a tight budget. On this visit, I only managed to browse and take photos of the children’s book shelves. Nancy Drew books outnumbered the Hardy Boys. I saw a vast collection of titles from the Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle comic series, as well as Archies, Tintin, and Asterix comics. Books by Enid Blyton, Trixie Belden, and R.L. Stine compete are sure to wow young readers, while the Captain Underpants and Geronimo Stilton series beckon budding bookworms to browse.
Taking a membership at Renga Lending Library is no sweat. Submit an address proof and I.D. photo and pay a small deposit, and you’re good to go. I’ve no idea if the library offers various membership packages. We paid a deposit of 300 rupees for our membership, which allows us to borrow up to 4 books that we can keep for 15 days. For each book borrowed, a member is charged a fee of 10 percent of the book’s value. My son chose two hardbound Hardy Boys titles and the two remaining Captain Underpants books that he hadn’t read. We paid 27 rupees for the four books, which is a pretty neat deal. I didn’t take any books for myself, as I do most of my reading on the IPad now. Also, I had no intention of taking a bite out of Motito’s four-books-a-fortnight borrowing allowance.
Two groups of patrons came and went with an armload of books during the half-hour we were at Renga Lending Library. Despite the onslaught of the Internet and e-readers, print books continue to hold their own in the bookselling market, and lending libraries like Renga still thrive in communities where their value is appreciated. I like that many of Renga’s books are well-worn, which I take as an indication that they’ve passed many hands and been enjoyed by generations of eager readers. Whenever I borrow books from any library, I take unusual pleasure in scanning the library card that’s slipped in a pocket on the back of the book. I read the date stamps and names (if the card has them) and imagine the ages and reading proclivities of the previous borrowers. I know it sounds creepy, but really I’m harmless. 🙂
The Renga Lending Library is located at No. 3 Kulakarai St., 1st Lane, Nanganallur, Chennai 600061. They’re open daily, except Tuesdays, at 9:30AM-1:00PM in the morning and 4:00PM-8:30PM in the evening. To be a member, submit an address proof and ID photo, and pay the deposit of Rs. 300. Their telephone numbers are 044 224 8386 / 93831 311 62 / 7338986162 .