Sharma, an assistant, had so dearly loved and served the library for over three decades and a half that it was, for any regular user of the library, quite impossible to think of the library without Sharma. Sharma and the library were like the obverse and the reverse of the same coin. His interest was not only to serve the reading public and research scholars but also to collect books from donors and felicitate them at a function arranged specially for the occasion in the meeting hall of the library. A seventy-year-old grey haired man who came with a bundle of fifty scholarly works of most ancient authors was his most honoured guest that evening. Sharma rose from his seat with a smile and welcomed the donor.
“Welcome Nitin Sahib!” said Sharma with his usual courtesy, offering him a chair in front of him.
“Oh! Thank you, thank you,” said Nitin occupying the chair.
A few seconds later Nitin's attendant followed with a big bundle of fifty old books.
“What are those books?” Sharma asked with eagerness writ large on his face.
Nitin gave a direction to his attendant to keep them on the table abutting the wall.
“These are my books. You know my son is now employed in Singapore. He is forcing us to live with him since we are alone in India. We have decided to spend our remaining years with him. So we are leaving India shortly. I have decided to donate my books to this library so that they will be useful to the readers,” said Nitin, much to the delight of Sharma.
Sharma was so pleased with his gesture that he eagerly searched for words to lavish praise on Nitin. He would never speak without a superlative or parole on such occasions.
“Let me know how to express my compliments to you sir,” said Sharma and rose from his seat to go through the titles of the books. As he untied the bundle and began to read the titles of the books his joy knew no bounds.
“Oh, what a marvellous collection! You know sir, several readers are asking for these books but we are unable to supply because they are out of print. Now our search has ended. You have done a highly appreciable job. I do not want to keep these classics in lending section. I would like to keep them in reference section. No panegyric would be sufficient to describe your help to this historic library,” said Sharma. He ordered two cups of tea.
“What Sharma! Why you are taking so much strain for me?” said Nitin out of courtesy.
“You have given us a treasure of knowledge. I do not know in what terms to acknowledge it. Let me have the satisfaction of at least offering you a cup of tea as a mark of respect,” replied Sharma.
Nitin left Sharma’s chamber after sipping tea.
The next morning, Sharma entered the chamber of the Librarian with a list of the books donated by Nitin. The Librarian took the list from Sharma and glanced through the titles initially in a casual manner. But as he began to read the titles carefully and in detail his eagerness increased and hurriedly read the titles one after the other with inexpressive joy.
“Oh, Sharma! I have no words to express my joy. What a marvellous collection! Most of these titles are not available even in the State Central Library. Now, as the librarian of this ancient and historical library, I feel proud that we could possess these titles,” said a jovial librarian.
“That is exactly what I feel, Sir. My humble suggestion is to felicitate him on the concluding day of the National Library Week. Our Minister is anyway coming for the occasion as the chief guest. And we shall request him to felicitate Nitin sahib so that it will encourage future donors of books,” pleaded Sharma.
“That is exactly what I thought. Please make arrangements,” said the librarian.
The function was over. Everybody appreciated Nitin's act of gesture.
Three days later Sharma sat down for his usual work. He opened the bundle of books donated by Nitin to classify them and to arrange the books on their respective shelves. According to the rules for classification of books, the accession number was to be written and the library stamp affixed on certain pages of every book. As usual Sharma opened the eleventh page of a book. To his utter dismay he found the library stamp already affixed and even accession number was clearly written. He hurriedly opened the eleventh page of the other books and found that the remaining books too carried the stamp of the library as well as accession number. Sharma could not control his emotion and anger as he realized that the books donated by Nitin were stolen from the same library some years ago. He immediately rang up Nitin’s phone.
“Yes, please!” said Nitin casually, taking the phone.
“I am Sharma from library,” said Sharma in a somewhat serious voice.
“Oh, Sharma sahib! What can I do for you?” said a nonchalant Nitin.
“You have already done a lot sir! Will you please let me know when and where you had purchased the books you donated to the library?” Sharma tried to compose himself.
“Look Mr. Sharma! I am now already seventy years old. How can I remember events that happened decades ago?” Nitin tried to escape.
“I am shocked that you were quite unashamed of keeping silent at least when you were felicitated for donating the books which you had stolen from the same library some years ago”, said an angry Sharma.
“There you are mistaken. My son stole these books when he was preparing for his examinations. Now he is well settled abroad and does not need the books any longer. You must be happy that I returned them to the library instead of selling them to a scrap vendor for a paltry sum as some borrowers of books very often do,” asserted Nitin.