Turning the pages of time

The J. N. Petit Library at D. N. Road, Fort, harkens back to a time when knowledge for its own sake was still important.

In our frenetic, Internet-fuelled world studded with cat memes and Twitter celebrities, the gentler pleasure of book reading has largely been consigned to the dustbins of the past. Not that I don’t love a good cat meme myself but an afternoon spent leafing through dusty old manuscripts in an ancient library is an irresistible siren call.
Mumbaikars are lucky enough to have a wealth of libraries, some of which are housed in remarkable buildings. For instance, the J. N. Petit Library’s gracious, tree-shrouded structure occupies a corner of the elegant D. N. Road.

Within its biscuit-coloured walls are rooms packed with rare books, including an exceedingly precious copy of Ferdowsi’s Shah Nama. High, arched stained glass windows throw shafts of sunlight onto long wooden reading tables while old-fashioned fans stir the hot, syrupy air. The antique wooden cupboards and wicker-backed chairs don’t seem to have changed since the library opened more than 100 years ago; its air of mildewed pathos is a testament to a time when the pursuit of knowledge and commerce went hand in hand.

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