The book keepers: How an Old Delhi neighbourhood rallied to save a library of rare reads.

Hazrat Shah Waliullah Public Library is home to about 20,000 books, including rare works in Urdu, Persian and Arabic.

One morning in May, 1987, Mohammad Naeem lay in bed for almost an hour, well after everyone in his Old Delhi home had started their day. He hadn’t slept well. The night had been full of thoughts — about the six-day curfew in his area; the people around him and all that they had been through; how the local and national leaders he looked up to didn’t seem to be doing much; and how his neighbourhood seemed stuck in a time warp..

During the curfew and the communal riots that had preceded it, Naeem and seven friends — all in their 20s, all from business families — volunteered to arrange for essential commodities for the neighborhood. With nothing to do the rest of the day, they played cards in a stuffy room inside a tiny lane on Pahari Imli, one of the many hillocks in the Walled City.

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