Malaysian writer and avid reader Uthaya Sankar SB lost nearly 2,000 books in Saturday's (Dec 18) devastating flash floods that swept through his Shah Alam home and several states.
Uthaya, 49, who is known for his books in Bahasa Malaysia, shared heartbreaking images of the floating books on his Facebook page recently.
“I feel very sad and helpless because I couldn't save anything. No books left. These were books from my personal collection and some were given to me. There were some first editions, and some signed by the authors. These books can’t be replaced,” says Uthaya, a former news editor and part-time lecturer at private colleges.
“I also lost many of my self-published books (before 2017). These are already out of print. It's just very sad. But there’s nothing I can do now,” says Uthaya referring to titles such as Rudra Avatara (2008) and Nari! Nari! (2015).
The 2,000 books were a part of his family's library. The library, on the ground floor of his triple-storey home in Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam, Selangor was open to the public, especially students. It also hosts the Kavyan Writers, a group of Indian writers who write in Bahasa Malaysia, that Uthaya co-founded.
Uthaya, who lives with his wife, 19-year-old daughter and 82-year-old mother-in-law, was confident that the flood would not reach his house.
“Taman Sri Muda was last flooded in 1996. And the street on which I live has always been safe. But, on Saturday afternoon, the water reached our house and began to rise gradually. I gathered all of the books on the lower shelves onto the table. I didn't believe it would continue to rise.
"As the rain continued, the water level rose, and our immediate priority was to relocate my mother-in-law to the first floor and save some of the essentials. And by 11pm, the entire ground floor had been submerged,” recounts Uthaya.
The writer and his family are currently staying at his brother’s house in another part of Shah Alam. His nephew arranged for a non-governmental organisation to provide a rescue boat and evacuated Uthaya and his family this morning with the help of two volunteers.