It speaks volumes for the respect a teacher inspired in the community of Jains that a library set up by Masterji, as he was called, is still functioning with his vision. Motilal Sanghi, a matriculate, a teacher in a government middle-school in Jaipur, started the library with his own money, way back in 1920. Every month, he would buy books worth Rs10 from his monthly salary which amounted to a princely sum of Rs25! Over the years, he built up a collection of over 1,500 books with which he started the library which was located in a temple in the walled city in Gheewalon Ka Rasta, where Masterji used to live.
Legend has it that he used to go from door to door with books, urging people to read. There was no charge for the ‘service’; people could take their time to read the book. But so persistent was he in his desire to spread the love of reading, and the knowledge contained in books, that if he found that someone had not read the book, he would spend hours explaining the contents of the book, to ignite the desire for learning. Masterji ran this service single-handedly from 1920 until he passed away in 1949. After his demise, his friends, associates and students gave it a formal structure and set it up as a trust called Shree Sanmati Pustakalay Trust.
Sanmati means useful knowledge/wisdom; one who has sanmati is noble-minded. I was told that it generally refers to Lord Mahavir; persons with the name Sanmati are mainly Jains. Perhaps this was the rationale for naming the library as Sanmati Pustakalay. Like Masterji, most of the patrons of the Trust are Jains. But the library is open for all and is still free of cost. It has a collection of over 40,000 books today, on a range of subjects—from religion to science, from botany to history and fiction as well.
Every day, some 200 students use the reading room. As the joint secretary of the Pustakalay, Dr Kokila Sethi, says, “During examination time, more than 400 students come and study here. In fact, sometimes we do not have enough seating place, so they even sit on the floor and study.” Most of them come from lower income backgrounds and, often, do not have the space to study in their homes.
The land for the present premises was obtained from the state government by one of the founder patrons. The foundation stone of the building was laid in May 1969 by Daulatmal Bhandari, the then Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, who was a student of Masterji. The building was inaugurated by the then chief minister of Rajasthan, Barkatulla Khan, in October 1972.
The late Kamal Kasliwal, proprietor of Kamal & Co, the only dealer of commercial and passenger vehicles in Jaipur way back in the 1950s and 1960s, was a founder patron of the Pustakalay. He had devised a rather ingenious way to raise funds for it. On every scooter that was sold by Kamal & Co—and at a time when the waiting period for scooters used to run into several years, if not a decade—a donation of Rs10 was taken for the library. While it was peanuts for the vehicle owner who did not grudge the deduction, the amount was adequate to meet the administrative expenditure of the Pustakalay.
The Pustakalay continues to be run on a shoestring even today; its annual expenditure, of about Rs10 lakh, is met through donations. But the Trust is currently raising funds to computerise operations and is also developing a revenue model by getting into skill development programmes and providing certificate courses for IT-enabled services. However, it is a long way from becoming self-sustaining as it wants to retain the original vision of Masterji—of providing free services to the needy.
Donations to the Pustakalay are exempt under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act. You can also donate books and periodicals on all subjects.
Arjunlal Sethi Nagar, Sethi Colony,
Jaipur 302004, Rajasthan