The indomitable desire he had of reading books, led him to the obsession of collecting old books. He has created a vast collection of his own by gathering books in various ways.
He rents out books to people from that collection. Once the reader is finished with reading a book, they return it back to him. Then the same book travels from one hand to another among the readers.
Omar Sharif runs his book renting operations out of a shop at Shaheed Jorrez Market in Rangpur city. The shop is not his own, he shares the shop with another trader.
Piles of books are scattered all over the shop. Most of those books are of the major authors of Bengali literature. There are books of foreign authors as well.
There are also stories, novels, poetry and biographies in his collection. Omar Sharif has read almost all of them.
Omar Sharif said, he started collecting old books in 2001, to spread his own interest of reading books among others. One of his longtime acquaintances from the cheap book market, Ruhul Amin emptied a corner of his shop for him, that too for free. That’s where he has built his empire of old books.
Since then he started bonding with the readers over the exchange of books. Upon entering Shaheed Jorrez market opposite of Rangpur City Corporation building, one can easily find the shop of cheap books named ‘Boimela’ on their right.
Omar Sharif usually sits at a corner of the shop, surrounded by books. The gray headed man still keeps spreading the light of knowledge among others for a minimum charge, even at this age.
Book lover Omar Sharif has around 5,000 books in his collection. Initially, he started renting out books just for two taka to motivate people to read. That fee is now Tk 10 to 15 based on the category of books.
Readers of all age groups borrow book from him. But, there is no longer a crowd of readers at the shop like earlier times.
Nowadays, books are just a click away for the readers now, thanks to the flow of information technology. But, this does not frustrate Omar Sharif a bit.
He finished his primary schooling from Mulatol Pathshala in Rangpiur city. After studying up to class seven at Rangpur Zila School he no longer could attend school.
Omar Sharif said, initially he would sell clothes to earn a living, but couldn't expand the business due to financial constraints. Then he took a job at a manufacturing company.
While at the job, he started collecting old books out of his passion and lost his job. Then he returned to the realm of books.
At present, Omar lives in Mulatol area with his wife and two sons. One of his sons works at a bank and the other son remains at home. The family somehow runs on a little money Omar earns from renting and selling books.
About the start of his book renting activities Omar Sharif said, initially the business of renting out old books was thriving. But, it has ebbed out quite a bit now. These old books are sold at half their original price.
Anyone can take the books home by depositing this half price. The reader gets the whole deposit money back while returning the book.
People rarely fail to return the books. Most of the readers usually return the books within 7 to 10 days and take new books on rent, Omar said.
Commenting on his passion of collecting books Omar Sharif said that he used to roam in front of all the major bookshops in Rangpur town once. Whenever he found some book lover who came there for books, other than textbooks, he used to ask them if they would like to sell their old books.
He would rush off to places if he got a hint of books anywhere and bought books for cheaper prices.
He used to also buy books from vendors or hawkers as well. He built such a huge collection by gathering books in this way.
A significant number of his readers are students who take books on rent from him. Though, he would find 50 to 60 readers a day before, the numbers have decreased down now. At present, 15 -20 readers exchange books daily.
Ali Ahsan, a student of Carmichael College said, he has been reading books by borrowing them from Omar Sharif, for several years now.
He takes out the books on rent after depositing half of the book price. After a week he borrows another book after returning the old one.
The man, who helped Omar Sharif find a place at Shaheed Jorrez Market, is Ruhul Amin, the owner of book shop ‘Boilmela’. He recently passed away.
Now, the business is run by his sons, one of whom is Raju Ahmed. Raju said, “Seeing his passion for reading books, my father sheltered him a corner of his shop for free.
“He himself reads and rents out books from there. Readers come to the shop every day. Omar has a lot of knowledge on good books and he motivates people into reading them,” he added.
Mahmud Nasir, a cultural activist of Rangpur said, “For a long time we are seeing Omar delivering books of different authors to the reader in exchange of rent. This is undoubtedly a noble initiative.”
“How many people do this kind of work? Even I have read a lot of books borrowing from him. In fact, many rare books can also be found in his possession. Though, people’s reading habits have decreased in this digital era, he is still continuing his work,” he added.