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‘Bhagat Singh used to literally devour books; set a record of sorts’

Bhagat Singh (1907-31) studied a lot till his arrest on 8 April 1929, yet his days of imprisonment are not less significant. Apprising us with this fact, one of his co-prisoners of the Lahore Central Jail, Shiv Verma, says, “Though we all had a passion for reading, Bhagat Singh was a class by himself. Despite having a soft corner for socialism, he always clung to his passion for reading novels, particularly with political and economic themes. Dickens, Upton Sinclair, Hall Cane, Victor Hugo, Gorky, Stepnik, Oscar Wilde and Leonard Andrew were among his favourites. He frequently got emotionally involved with some particular characters in novels, to the extent that he wept and laughed with them.”

His love for books is legendary like him. As per some estimates, he read nearly 50 books during his schooling (1913-21), about 200 from his college days to the day of his arrest in 1921, and, approximately 300 during his imprisonment of 716 days from April 8, 1929, to March 23, 1931. He was exactly 23 years, five months and 25 days old at the time of his execution, and had by then had studied hundred of books — a record of sorts.

Throwing some light on Bhagat Singh’s thirst for books, a well- known librarian of Dwarka Das Library (Lahore, now in Chandigarh) Raja Ram Shastri, once told Shiv Verma, “Bhagat Singh literally used to devour books. He would read books, makes notes, discuss with his friends and critically examine his own understanding in the light of new knowledge, rectifying the mistakes that came to be discovered.”

Bhagat Singh always moved with a small portable library. According to his nephew, Prof Jagmohan Singh, “Bhagat Singh established a library of 175 books by around 70 authors at Agra where the Assembly bomb plan was finalized.

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