From a software engineer to running an online library, it’s been quite a career swing for Vani Mahesh (31). It’s a job she loves doing: reading books, buying the good ones and recommending them to others. And that’s in addition to software development and maintenance of the web-based library management system that she has developed. (She reads aloud Noddy, Franklin and Clifford books to her four-year-old daughter Neethi and recommends thrillers to her husband Mahesh, a consultant with Infosys.)
Over two years old, Easy Library in Koramangala has 900 members and counting. There are 7,000 books, with 150 added every month. And 1,500 are doing the rounds of various homes at any given time – from Palace Guttahalli and RT Nagar to Koramangala and Whitefield. It’s a 50-50 share of online and offline members. Not surprisingly, most of the walk-ins are from Koramangala where the library is situated (on the same road as the Wipro park).
The reading habits of Bangaloreans have not changed much in the two years since its existence. “50 per cent are experimental and the rest stick to their favourites… some only read science fiction and some only romance,” says Mahesh. “Those who read literature love to experiment with new genres and new authors. Others stick to either current affairs or management books.”
Right now, the trend’s more for espionage thrillers. “Unlike two years ago, members at the library are now reading more books on philosophy, like Bertrand Russell and J Krishnamurthy.”
And who are these readers? “It runs the whole gamut… housewives, software professionals, bankers, lawyers, managers,” says Mahesh. “Most of them are serious readers above 25 years.”
The reading habit hasn’t died down in the last two years. “It’s remained constant,” says Mahesh. “When I started with 2,000 books, I bought books that appealed to me. Today, I also get referrals from readers and from online reviews on websites like amazon.com.”
Mahesh trips on thick tomes. She’s read Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, Gunter Grass’s Tin Drum and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, among others.
Her personal life is as varied. Though born in Chikkaballapur, she grew up in Shimoga. Did her engineering degree from Mysore University, and soon got married to Kavi Mahesh (who was then doing his final year PhD in computer science at Georgia Tech). “I moved to the US on a spouse visa and did my masters in computer science from New Mexico State University,” says Mahesh. “After that, I worked in the president’s office at the university for a year as a system administrator.”
Mahesh moved to San Jose to work in the product development wing of IBM, while her husband joined Oracle as a software engineer the same day. “I was one of the five fresh graduates picked for working on a product (DB2-connect) that provided connectivity from the desktop computers to the database running on mainframes, says Vani. “Two and a half years later, an enhanced version of the product was released in the market.”
On July 4 in 2000, Mahesh shifted her base to Bangalore, her husband’s hometown. “My husband joined the research wing of Infosys and I started work on the software for my online library,” says Mahesh. “It took me eight months to develop the library management system and another two months to get the books.”
Today, she has 17 and 20-year-olds tripping on Jackie Collins and the adults asking for anything from Osho to Barbara Bradford’s Woman of Substance. “Otherwise, thrillers and literary fiction are the main staple,” says Mahesh.
Her children’s section is divided into very young, young, and young adult. Books range from Noddy, Franklin and Clifford to Enid Blyton, Babysitter Club mysteries, Anaesthesia, Sweet Valley series, Three Investigators, Archies, Tintin, Asterix, Calvin & Hobbes and many more. “The section’s a Saturday night hangout for my daughter,” says Mahesh, who loves a good swim. “My day starts with a jog, then I am at the library on weekdays from 10 to 3 pm, and then I go for a swim at the Best Club on Mysore Road,” says Mahesh. “The rest of the time is spent being with my child and reading.”
Mahesh reads two books at a time: one fiction and another non-fiction. Says she: “My husband usually reads books I recommend.”
And so do some of the members at her library.
I, ME, MYSELF
Vani Mahesh, 31 years
Runs Easy Library in Koramangala, where you can also order books online; Rs 5 each for home delivery and pick up
MS in computer science from New Mexico State University
Married to Kavi Mahesh, a consultant with Infosys
Worked with the latest web technology for IBM at San Jose, California for three years
Started the library two years ago; has designed and developed the website herself; minimum initial deposit is Rs 300; Rs 60 is the monthly fee
A voracious reader; spans fiction and non-fiction
Travels from her home in Rajarajeshwari Nagar on Mysore Road to her library in Koramangala every day
(Published in City Reporter, 2003)