We are deeply saddened by the sudden demise of Mr. Ram Advani. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and stand by them in this hour of grief. May his soul rest in peace – OCA India.
Lucknow’s iconic bookseller Ram Advani passes away. Ram Advani was Bursar at Bishop Cotton School in the mid 1940s
Lucknow: The city is mourning the demise of its iconic book seller Ram Advani today. He was 95 and was not keeping well since he suffered a fracture in his femur in November 2015.
According to Advani’s younger sister Mohini Manglik (91), he was dull from the past two days and wasn’t willing to eat much. “I assume that he died in sleep and we came to know about his demise around 7 am,” she told TOI.
Family friend Mamta Tewari informed that the last rites may be performed on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. “We are waiting for his children to arrive,” he said.
Survived by son Rukun, a Delhi based publisher and daugher Radhika who lives in London, Advani’s family comprises people from different walks of life who have been in touch with him in some or the other way. A personal touch dominated all rules of business and the experience was potent of evoking a strong sense of nostalgia.
Advani’s best friend’s son Naveen stated that Advani started selling books in Lucknow in 1947 and was passionate about his work. “Everyone knows that Ram Advani was more than a bookseller. His store was a place to contemplate, learn and feel the pulse of society without feeling the burden of it. A visit to his store was an experience because of the love and affected extended by Advani to all,” he said in a previous interview with TOI, Advani “It is difficult to make a Tata or a Birla understand the happiness I derive when I can give my reader a book he’s looking for. Money can’t be equated with a book-store,” he had said.
He had admitted that there was competition from new chains opening. “I have been here for 60 years. I hope my son can make a century. I don’t want to accept defeat. Just by seeing the way a person reads or smells the book, I can say whether he’ll be buying it or not,” Advani had said.
Different social media groups in the city are remembering Advani since the morning. One such group, Jahan-e-Avadh, has mentioned that Advani was a book in himself. Another group Heritage Lovers termed Advani;s death as “end of an era”.
The Hazratganj boulevard starting from Jahangirabad Palace all the way to the intersection linking it to the Vidhan Sabha Road, is a scene of much activity, commotion and hustle-bustle throughout the day.
People ganj languorously, strolling, chatting, gorging on the famous basket chaat at the Royal Cafe or just window-shopping! The kinetic energy is very palpable. But amidst the clutter and clamour of the plush marketplace there is peace and quiet in the corner of the legendary Mayfair building in a sanctuary for book lovers.
Yes, we’re talking about Ram Advani Booksellers. This bookstore is a labour of love of Ram Advani who was born in pre-partition Karachi but the unpredictable designs of destiny made Lucknow his home for life. The man is not a mere bookseller, he’s a connoisseur! One is indeed transported to a bygone era while listening to his anecdotes from the rich repertoire of his life experiences.
“My father played an instrumental role in building this Mayfair complex as he was the administrator here. My father and Seth Gyan Chand Thadani came to Lucknow in 1926-27 in search of a new world, instead of going to Hong Kong or Barcelona, as many Sindhis do,” he asserts.
Indeed Lucknow proved to be a new world but few know that Ram Advani came from a family of leading booksellers. Their bookshop in Lahore was called Ray’s Bookshop which had branches in Rawalpindi and Nainital. In fact, few are aware that initially Ram was employed in Bishop’s Cotton School, Simla, where he made life-long friends with the likes of Ruskin Bond who was a student there. That friendship still holds. He had a job that was the envy of every young graduate. But the family business beckoned Ram that he opened a branch of Ray’s bookshop in Piccadilly House, Simla. Through the kindness of Acharya Kriplani, who was also a close friend of his grandfather, he got space in the Gandhi Ashram, Lucknow where he opened another bookshop.
“Though the opening was scheduled for February 1st in 1948 but Gandhiji was assassinated on January 30th and therefore we opened on February 15th, 1948. But after two or three years we were told to vacate the place and it was only because of the goodness of people like Mr. Larkins and Mr. A.P. Singh, then District Magistrate of Lucknow, that we got this place,” says the nonagenarian.
Nostalgia brims over his misty eyes as Ram reminisces about the good old days. Whether it was playing golf with Wajahat Habibullah, sharing a drink with Larkins at Mohammad Bagh Club or having animated discussions at his bookstore-cum-open house with the likes of Attia Hossein, V.S. Naipaul and Shanti Hiranand.
Ram symbolises Lucknow in letter and spirit. Especially in today’s times when the city is ever-expanding and in its cosmopolitan nature losing a lot of its charm. In those circumstances, Ram’s punctilious, sedate and staid demeanour is a happy reminder of the precious tehzeeb that Lucknow is known for. And just like the mere presence of books is soothing, even though one doesn’t read them, its the presence and aura of people like Ram that is like balm for the soul even though it is not possible to meet him every day.