My association with the Jaffna library
My association with the Jaffna goes back to my student days. That is in the late forties and early fifties. During weekends I used to visit the library to borrow books and read newspapers and periodicals, especially in English like the then famous Illustrated weekly of India. In addition, one can read newspapers like The Hindu, Hindu Organ, Virakesari, Dinakaran and so forth. One more important document was the Government Gazette which carried advertisements for job vacancies. in the government sector.
I distinctly remember the day the copy of the Gazzette that carried the results of the General Clerical Service exam. I quickly rushed through the list to find my name among more than 700 passes. It is an understatement to say I was excited. I rushed home to convey the good news to my family members.
At that time the Jaffna Municipal library was situated in a dilapidated building opposite the Municipal Council Building. Membership was free. The individual who founded the Library was K.M. Chellappa in 1933. The year I was born! Initially, he had a library at his home and he generously handed over the books to the Jaffna Municipal Council library.
At that time I never imagined that I will one day serve as the Accountant of the Jaffna Municipal Council from 1966 – 1971. Due to fortuitous circumstances, I acted as the Municipal Commissioner as well when the post fell vacant following the retirement of Mr. Hudson Selvarajah in 1967.
On June 01, 1966 the Jaffna Municipal Council was dissolved by the Minister for Local Government M.Tiruchelvam. Three Special Commissioners, all public servants.
As Minister of Local Government M.Tiruchelvam took a keen interest in the affairs of the Municipal Council. He used to drop in at the Municipal Council whenever he visited Jaffna. During meetings held it was decided to complete the unfinished domes of the library. At that time there was a pending proposal to construct a Model Market, but for lack of funds, it remained shelved. One day A. Amirthalingam, MP came to the Municipal Council at the invitation of Minister M. Tiruchelvam. I spoke to Amirthalingam, MP about the Model Market and he, in turn, spoke to the Minister. As a result, the Ministry gave a loan of Rs, 1.3 million. In today’s exchange rate is worth more than Rs. 1,300 million!
The completion of the domes was supervised by Municipal Council Engineer Vytilingam. The original drawings by Architect Narasimman was used to complete the domes.
The Domes were officially opened in 1967. Local Government Minister Tituchelvam unveiled the photographs of two pioneer members of the Jaffna Library project. They were Sam Sabapathy the first Mayor of Jaffna Municipality and Reverend Father Long, Rector of St. Patricks College Jaffna.
On behalf of the JMC, I made the welcome speech. In December 1980 I left for Nigeria to take up an appointment as the Principal Auditor of the Bauchi Audit Department.
It was there I heard the news over the BBC Tamil service the burning of the Jaffna Library containing 95 thousand books and thousands of manuscripts. It was a cultural shock and my heart got broken like thousands of others. A friend of mine who was a teacher in Bauchi suffered a mild heart attack on hearing the sad news.