Memories: The Generous Book-Stall Owners Down The Ages!

While reading the latest book by the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Home in the World-A Memoir, I found one incident or rather an experience of this great economist-researcher-scholar-writer-Nobel Prize winner in 1998-Bharat Ratna winner in 1999, concerning a book-stall owner that he frequented in the fifties in the famed college street area of Kolkata, then Calcutta. I was enthralled to find that experience having a strong similarity with my experience of a book-stall owner in the seventies. Well, two mandatory clarifications here: first, I’ve titled my piece not after Sen’s great book which means that this is not going to be a review, but just a story, and I’m still going through the book which, in my view, is of epic proportions, particularly in relation to the history, culture, economics and heritage of Bengal from the pre-partition days; and second, there can absolutely be no imaginable comparison between the living legend and this nonentity, as I said this is just a story of a resemblance that I find greatly amusing and interesting.

Amartya Sen (his name ‘Amartya’ was given by the legendary Rabindra Nath Tagore), after finishing his school education in Tagore’s Santiniketan the liberal atmosphere of which gave a definite shape to his thinking (particularly his life-long resolve to work and research for eradicating the stark inequalities and religious divisiveness of the Indian society, influenced also by the great famine of Bengal of 1943 that killed nearly 3 million people, and how to prevent re-occurrence of such famines in future which he always held to be economically plausible, citing the World War-2 erroneous policies of the British), joined the Presidency College in 1951 for his pre-university course (today’s 11-12 standard) in Calcutta that was under the Calcutta University. His batchmate was Sukhamoy Chakraborty (1934-1990), one of the greatest economists of all time and who along with PC Mahalanobis had been a key architect in the formulation of India’s Five-Year Plans when he joined the Planning Commission, after returning to India from his teaching in MIT in the US. Later, Sukhamoy Chakraborty was teaching at the Delhi School of Economics as a professor of economics and during my post-graduate course (1979-1981) I used to behold him in absolute admiration and awe, although he did not take our classes as per my selected papers. Later, I was very sad to know of his untimely demise in 1990. As avid students of economics the name of Amartya Sen was very much known to us, and I think, but not sure, he visited the D School some time during that period for a lecture. However, we must return to our story, because once we start talking about those times it’d go on forever.

Both young Amartya and Sukhamoy, obviously, were serious thinkers and book worms. Their Presidency College was situated at the College Street area of city and right opposite to the college was the legendary Coffee House of Calcutta where all Bengali writers and intellectuals had their addas, having endless debates that evolved their thinking, leanings and writings. This tradition continues even now and every Bengali intellectual, including students of course, cannot help but visit the Coffee House regularly. I also have the privilege of sitting in those famous environs inside where, apart from the addas there are culinary delights too with the inevitable cups of coffee. Outside the coffee house are the numerous book-stalls lining up the lanes around where books are sold like hot cakes and I’d prefer to call those book-sellers as book vendors, because like any other vendors they too call out continuously to prospective customers to come and get the book-dishes, a sight perhaps one cannot find anywhere in India (in my personal experience, I never found anything similar anywhere).

As was usual, Amartya and Sukhamoy did not have enough money to buy every new book that arrived at the bookshelves of the stalls. At times one of them would buy and lend it to the other or vice versa. They also started visiting a particular book-stall where the owner did not seem to mind them sitting there for hours reading their preferred books without making any move to buy those. So, this went on, and at a crucial juncture the book-stall owner made the kindest of gestures, impressed perhaps by the knowledge-seeking intensity of the young boys. He offered to lend them the precious books on a condition that the book would be lent only for a night and it had to be returned the next day, in the original shape and quality. The generous book-stall owner used to wrap up the book covers with newspapers for that very objective. It was a godsend for the young scholars and they capitalized on this as much they were capable of. Amartya Sen also recounts some other customer asking the book-stall owner as to how he managed to do business in this way. The owner was reported to reply that if he did not want to manage in that way he would’ve gone for more profitable businesses like selling jewelries. This shows how books are admired and almost worshipped in West Bengal even now.

Cut now to my ‘coincidental’ part in the story. During my pre-university days too in the seventies, to be exact during 1975-1977, in a small town called Mangaldoi (now in Darrang district of Assam) I had been an avid student, helped very much by a ‘simple living high thinking’ inspired and independent-spirited family environment. My civil-service-officer cum writer-author-translator father was serving in that town for the second time, and following him we four children, particularly my younger brother and I, were literal book worms. We had an old bicycle that time and I daily used to go to the Mangaldoi College that was more than two miles away from our rented house. We used to get books from the district library, college library and other sources of private lending. My father being an honest officer he had to run his family of six with his limited monthly salary, and therefore, there was just not enough money to go on buying new arrivals at the bookshelves; at times he bought and at others we did saving out of our meager pocket money.

I used to frequent a book-stall somewhere in my locality to regularly check the new books. I sensed that the elderly book-stall owner had a very kind face and he always smiled at me whenever I parked my bicycle and came to the counter. That perception about him encouraged me to try reading the books at the stall itself: I’d normally ask for the book I wanted, withdraw to the extreme corner of the counter-desk so that other customers are not disadvantaged and kind of start devouring the book; at most times I finish the book and return it with a cordial smile; when I fail to finish the book, a voluminous one, in one ‘standing’ I come again the next day and ask for the same book to which the generous book-stall owner never reacts negatively or shows his displeasure. I really savored this godsend opportunity to read and read new books without having to buy for months in my leisure time, particularly in the forenoons of holidays. Of course, whenever I felt a little guilty I used to somewhat recompense the book-stall owner by buying a relatively cheaper book.

Such generous book-stall owners or sellers or even shopkeepers exist even today, I’m sure. They are not cut-throat sellers or competitors; they live their lives and do business with their principles held high. In my Kolkata stay I found a shopkeeper who gave my special items to me at a price less than the MRP. I was pleasantly surprised and asked him how he could afford to do that while most others try to charge even more than the MRP on some pretext or the other. He only smiles sweetly and says that it is very much possible if you want to do that way. We also find quite a few others in Mumbai and in Kolkata who give away their vegetables or fruits without payment if we did not have the change in pocket then, saying with a smile ‘take it Sir, where will you go!’ Great! I salute them all, like I’m sure; the greats of Amartya Sen and Sukhamoy Chakraborty obviously did and do.

Free College Tuition for Senior Citizens

Free College Tuition! Did you know that a senior citizen attending a university, could earn a degree for free if they only take six credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.0 GPA. Some institutes require a registration fee. Continue reading to see if your state has free tuition.


Alabama seniors can attend any two-year institution within the state completely free.

Adults 60 and older should contact the financial aid office at any community college for admission and eligibility details.


The University of Alaska waives tuition for senior-citizen residents old enough to receive full social-security benefits. Seniors must wait until the first day of classes to enroll to ensure that there’s space remaining; they must also complete a tuition-waiver form.

Additional costs such as student activity, health center and lab fees are not covered; the student must pay them directly.


All 10 campuses of Maricopa Community College allow senior citizens to take classes for credit at 50% of the full tuition cost.

Students 65 and older must register between the first and second class sessions of the semester to ensure space is available


Arkansas waives tuition for anyone 60 and over who wants to work toward an undergraduate or graduate degree at state institutions.

Student fees may apply and senior citizens may only register for classes with space available.


California State University waives all tuition and dramatically reduces campus fees for residents age 60 or older.


Residents 62 and up may attend state colleges, including community colleges, for free.

At Central Connecticut State University, such as, tuition and university fees are waived for any resident over the age of 62 who applies for full- or part-time admission for a degree-granting program.

Senior students may also take non-credit courses on a space-available basis and have tuition waived.


Students aged 55 and up attending Louisiana state schools receive free tuition and 50% off books and materials at the campus student bookstore.


Any student in the University of Maryland System who’s retired and over the age of 60 may have tuition waived, even for degree-granting programs.


Seniors 60 and up receive free tuition at Northern Michigan University; at Wayne State University in Detroit, seniors 60 and up receive a 75% discount on tuition, but must pay registration and related fees.


Ohio residents at least 60 years old may attend class at any state college for free. Senior-citizen students do not receive credit and can only register on a space-available basis.

South Carolina

Residents 60 and above can attend classes at state schools on a credit or non-credit basis, pending space available, for free. The school must grant admission via its normal procedures.

Technology, lab and other fees are the responsibility of the student.


Tennessee residents 65 and older may enroll in courses for credit at state schools and community colleges.

Schools may charge a service fee of up to $70 per semester that goes toward the keeping of records for those students.


Texas law allows students 65 and up the opportunity to take six credit hours of undergraduate or graduate courses for free at public universities.

A senior citizen attending the University of Texas at Austin, for example, could earn a degree for free if they only take six credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.0 GPA.

Students must present proof of age to the accounts receivable office to have the exemption applied to their accounts.


Residents age 62 and up may enroll tuition-free at a state institution; a registration fee is required.


Institutions in Washington are required to partially or fully waive tuition fees for residents age 60 or older who are enrolled for credit on a space-available basis. Nominal fees may apply to students auditing courses.

Some schools limit senior citizens to a certain number of classes or credits; for example, Washington State University caps the waiver at six credits in each fall and spring semesters. Other schools may only offer tuition-free audit options.

West Virginia

West Virginia allows residents age 65 and older to attend undergraduate and graduate courses on a space-available basis; both for-credit and audit options are available. Schools may still require seniors to pay fees such as parking.

While senior students at West Virginia University applying for credit must use the regular admissions form, those wishing to be non-degree students pay just $5 to apply.


Upon admission to the University of Wyoming, senior citizens 65 and up may attend class on a space-available basis for free.

Community colleges offer a tuition-waiver form seniors can submit; the waivers do not cover student or other fees.

University Degree Online Guide – Tips for Finding Right Accredited Online University Degree Programs

As our lives are getting busier in the fast-moving society, earning an university degree online and pursuing long distance learning has become an increasingly popular choice for people, especially those who want to continue their education without sacrificing whatever the commitments they already have.In fact, it has recently been reported that approximately two-thirds of the major institutions in the US have accredited online university degree programs and their quality has improved considerably well particularly in the past three years.In many aspects, getting an university degree online is considered a better way to pursue your education as you can have flexibility to learn in your own way and decide how quickly you want to earn your degree without being conditioned by the presence of teachers or study classrooms. Besides, getting an online education degree is actually very economical and eco-friendly as you do not need any transport to attend a classroom every day.Nowadays, it is truly easy to work on online bachelor degrees, online master degrees or even online doctors and PhD degrees from many major universities without having your own presence and it has certainly been encouraging many people to pursue their higher education.Earning an university degree online, however, can be not as easy as it seems if you are not prepared for the slightly different approach to its learning process. The biggest difference you must know before jumping into an online education degree program is that you need more “self-motivation”. Obviously there is NO one to inspire you or even push you when you are sitting in front of your computer by yourself. In other words, you need to have a determination, self-management and organizational abilities to earn degrees online. You also should have a good reading skill to learn well as more and more online degrees are becoming available.Now, if you are keen on pursuing university degrees online, you should be considering the following points before jumping right in.1. A good Internet Connection:This is rather too obvious to mention but if you do not want to get frustrated, you should get yourself a stable and high-speed Internet connection.2. Fake Websites: You need to be very careful with those fake websites that are very well made and promising moon and sun. The tip is to apply through a website that mainly provides information on reputable institutions.3. Universities with Good Reputation: Since you are going to study hard, you must make sure that the university that you are getting an online degree from is well recognized and accredited or you would end up wasting time, energy and money.4. Cost for Online Education Degree Programs:In some cases, you may find some hidden costs for some educational materials or other fees that may not be mentioned in the information you would obtain. Double check and make sure you know exactly how much it will cost you to complete the degree.5. Online Credits:It’s important to find out whether all the credits you accumulate through the program are transferable.Earning university degrees online has been becoming more popular than ever been as it not only gives great flexibility to those who would not have time for on-campus degrees otherwise but also it tends to provide a better employment opportunities in many cases. This is definitely a good option for you to take as long as you are careful with those points mentioned above.