The bookseller of Bengaluru is no more

By Amogh Sahasrabhojanee

Premier Bookshop, at the corner of Church Street and Museum Road in Bengaluru used to be a temple of books. Books lined the walls up to the ceiling and a huge pile, at least 10 rows deep, sat in the centre. The secret to the order within the chaos was held by the owner–TS Shanbhag. Premier closed down in 2009—its spot taken by a pub. But it is today, with the passing of Shanbhag, that the Bengaluru institution has finally retired.

Bengaluru’s favourite bookseller

Nephew of TN Shanbhag, the legendary founder of Strand Book Stall in Mumbai, TS was a respected figure on Bengaluru’s literary circuit. He was a human recommendation engine, gently suggesting books based on their purchases or enquiries. The recommendations were invariably excellent. He also had an uncanny ability to remember his regular customers’ reading tastes. Novelist Anita Nair recalls how touched she when the organisers of an event told her that Shanbhag had personally put together the stack of books they intended to gift her—he knew what books she would like and keep. Author and historian Ramchandra Guha, always an admirer of Shanbhag, says: “I owe much of my education to books bought at his Premier Book Shop”. Krishna Gowda of Bookworm Bookshop on Church Street says Shanbhag was an inspiration for booksellers and for him personally. He was apparently the first bookseller, all the way back in 1978, to start offering 20 percent discounts on new books.