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Governor’s gifts to Raj Bhavan

The Raj Bhavan library will be richer by about 200 books when Bengal’s 24th governor bids adieu on July 4.

Most of the books, donated by M.K. Narayanan, are on strategic affairs and international relations, reflecting the core interests of the former national security advisor and IB director. The rest include novels and books on varied topics, from Irish cultural heritage to streets of Delhi.

The novels include a Rabindranath Tagore collection — including A Grain of Sand (Chokher Bali), The Shipwreck (Noukadubi) and Home and the World (Ghare Baire) — and bestsellers by Josephine Cox and Judith McNaught.

Among the other books are historian Daithi O. Hogain’s Ireland People and Places: A Celebration of Ireland’s Cultural Heritage.

“We are still cataloguing. Once that is done, the books will be placed on a separate rack dedicated to the governor in the library, with his name written above it,” said a Raj Bhavan official.

The library on the ground floor at Raj Bhavan’s north-west corner has about 7,000 books, manuscripts and photographs. Almost all governors of Bengal have donated books to the library, as evident by the racks under the names of Narayanan’s predecessors.

“The library was relocated from the second floor to the ground floor in early 2000, during the tenure of Viren J. Shah. Since then the space has grown keeping pace with the books being received over the years,” said an official.

“This library boasts a rare treasure — Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Correspondence of William Jones by Lord Teignmouth.”

The library has three rooms, including a study. Most of the books are kept in the reading room, the librarian’s chamber and the covered corridor in front of the three rooms.

The governor’s study is a small place with a wooden table and three chairs. Insiders said Gopalkrishna Gandhi would frequently visit the study.

In contrast, the outgoing governor comes to the study occasionally. “He prefers his office to the library to read books,” said a Raj Bhavan insider.

During Narayanan’s stay, most of the book releases at Raj Bhavan — including K. Natwar Singh’s Walking with Lions: Tales from a Diplomatic Past — would be held in the library.

An early riser, Narayanan begins his day by walking around his sprawling residence, followed by physical exercise that continues for half an hour.

“He comes to the office at 10.30am. Around 2.30pm every day, he leaves for an hour’s lunch break. Unless engaged otherwise, he stays in office till 8-8.30pm. There will always be books or magazines by his side,” said an official said.

Before Narayanan leaves, the 450-strong Raj Bhavan staff would meet him for the last time on Thursday afternoon for an informal interaction over tea. A source said the staff would hand over to the governor a gift “he would treasure”.