Shelf Life

Khuda Bakhsh Oriental public Library

Bihar is one of the sorriest places on earth. The eastern Indian state is the poorest and most illiterate in the subcontinent. Extortion and gang wars are rife, thousands of people die in floods every few years, and NASA recently discovered a cloud of smog over Bihar five times as dense as that over Los Angeles. It's not a place where you'll find many tourists, and certainly not somewhere you'd expect a center of scholarly excellence.

So the existence of the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library (, a small pink building in downtown Patna, the state...

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