Amidst its Books and History, a Present Library Evokes the Past

Where am I Issue 215 Oct, 2019
Text by Bibeka Bazra

While Thamel has evolved from a quiet urban neighborhood into a hustling bustling tourist center, this particular place has remained an peaceful haven just steps from the heart of Thamel. Undisturbed natural beauty and wide open spaces to unwind makes this place a serene destination to be at during the light daytime showers.

What came into existence in the 1890s as a private library of a field marshal of the Nepalese Army, Kaiser Shumsher, later became a hub for people to go to study. As you enter the wide gate of Kaiser Mahal, you will find yourself in a space of tranquility. It felt to me as if the world had paused, with my surroundings being so much more quiet than usual. The architecture of the place is the same as that of the signature white buildings made back in the day for royal offices and palaces, across which stood bronze lions and decorations that showcase the mark of royalty. Dark interior, wooden floors, old tables and round sofas gives you those cozy vintage vibes, making you feel like a time traveler. Being one of the oldest libraries of Nepal, it was not really a surprise to see a huge storage area filled with books and archives that hold the history of the nation. Old artifacts, framed wall paintings and photos are also well preserved here.

According to the librarian, there are over 60,000 books, documents, manuscripts and periodicals in the library. The books cover a wide range of subjects including philosophy, astronomy, social science, religion, military science, medicine, game, hunting, gardening, history, biography and literature. For the first hour, I went ahead and looked through the archives of daily newspapers from decades ago, intriqued by how the content was so different from now, along with the paper quality, advertisements and also the size. Then, I ended up grabbing a suspense novel, They Never Came Back by Caroline B, Cooney, and settled myself in one of the comfy seats.

The environment inside the library had me forgetting all my stress and took me across the barrier of reality to the world of imagination. The words on the pages slowly and magically transformed into people and voices and conflicts. The mere presence of a book makes me feel content and at this particular place, where I was surrounded by thousands of books, both fiction and non-fiction, I was more than happy.