The book lender

For years, Mr Reuben ran the community ‘lending library’ from a tiny space at 32, Pedlar Street in the Galle Fort. Now in disrepair, he’s been working to resurrect the library. He talks about how the library began. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam.


Join the discussion: 5 comments

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    I found Mr Reuben through one of his former students, Sabri, who runs a guest house in the Galle Fort. Sabri told me that Mr Reuben, a teacher, had taught many of the doctors, bankers and lawyers from the Fort. They still remembered him and even now, police officers he once taught refrain from smoking cigarettes in front of him out of respect.

    Across from his home on Pedlar Street is the tiniest of spaces, and inside, books lay decaying and abandoned. Mr Reuben told me about his lending library, which he inherited in 1958, and the kinds of people who came through its doors. I tried to picture what it might have been like in its heyday. Mr Reuben told me how many of the political meetings of his former leftist party were conducted in this very room. For his leftist activities, considered improper by the then government, he was banished from Galle to a remote village in Moneragala in 1978, under what he called a “political punishment”. The library stopped functioning and many of the books sadly perished.

    Still passionate about his library, Mr Reuben has started to find ways to resurrect his passion for sharing books. But first he has to convince the courts that the space which he inherited under rather curious circumstances in the 1970s was in fact and law, now his.

  • Sharni Jayawardena says:

    I wonder what happened to the Non-Citizen: “the fellow who was ‘taken’ within 24 hours.” That was the saddest funny story I ever heard.

  • Nancy Fernando says:

    Very, very interesting video. I like the man, he is a true teacher. Once a teacher always a teacher. I do hope with all my heart his desire to resurrect his passion happens.

  • Nazmi Mahamood says:

    See how Sri Lanka has changed from Ceylon? Spending time with people like these or letting them share their experiences is something to treasure.

  • R. Jayasinghe says:

    Mr. Reuben’s ‘Read & Return’ library where there were ‘comics’ of all sorts — Schoolgirl’s library, Air-Ace library etc. — was the key note to my fluency in English. Thank you Mr. Reuben. We look forward for the re-opening of your legendary library which will motivate more children to learn English as it did me.


Leave a comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our submission guidelines before you comment. Comments that do not adhere to the guidelines will be edited or deleted.

Submission guidelines

When engaging with the i am project, we encourage you to communicate with respect and be tolerant of differences.

Comments that do not adhere to these guidelines will be deleted.

We reserve the right to remove your access to i am completely if we believe that you are abusing the site guidelines in any way.