Volume 41, Number 1
Mr. Raj’s long journey takes a new turn
By Mark Layman/NLS Publications & Media Section
Yealuri Rathan Raj could hardly have come to the United States at a less auspicious time.
He arrived in Washington, D.C., from India in July 1967, in the midst of the Summer of Love. But it was also the Long Hot Summer of race riots in Newark, Detroit, and other American cities. That October, 100,000 Vietnam War protesters rallied at the Lincoln Memorial and encircled the Pentagon, where poet Allen Ginsberg chanted in a symbolic attempt to levitate the building and soldiers held demonstrators back at bayonet-point.
“I had never seen so many people protesting,” Raj recalled recently. “The country was in turmoil.” Raj, who had left his hometown near the Bay of Bengal with a scholarship to study at Howard University’s School of Divinity, also witnessed the violence that erupted in Washington after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the following April. “It was scary,” he said, “especially the people looting and burning. I tried to stay far away from it.” And in June 1968, he watched on a borrowed black-and-white TV as another murdered Kennedy brother was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Still, the social and political chaos of his first year in Washington didn’t discourage Raj from his dreams. And this fall, a half-century later, he is retiring as overseas librarian at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a position he has held since 1989.
Raj—known to his coworkers by his last name, or as “Mister Raj”—didn’t find many opportunities to become a minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church after he graduated from Howard, so he taught 6th grade in a parochial school. Later he got a job in the library at Howard, went to night school at the University of Maryland to get a master’s degree in library science, and became a U.S. citizen.
As the NLS overseas librarian, Raj provides direct service from his always-tidy cubicle to several hundred patrons who live abroad—most of them in Canada, Mexico, Israel, and South America. He makes sure applicants qualify for service and gets them enrolled; mails them talking-book cartridges, magazines, and machines; and works with them to solve technical or logistical problems.
One of the most common problems Raj has to deal with is overseas postal officials who aren’t familiar with UNESCO’s Nairobi Protocol of 1976, whose signatories agreed not to impose import taxes on books and other materials for blind people. Usually, a forwarded copy of the Nairobi Protocol and a confirmation from Raj that the package contains free matter for the blind clears up any confusion. As for the patrons, “I always tell them not to pay a penny,” he said.
Of course, many patrons don’t have to worry about international mail delivery anymore because they download their books via BARD, the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download service. In the 2017 fiscal year, overseas patrons received 8,104 braille and audio books and magazines by mail—but downloaded more than twice that many.
One of those downloaders is Bev Collins, who became a patron after being diagnosed with uncontrolled glaucoma. She is sailing around the world with her husband on their Seattle-based yacht, the Mersoleil. “I love the NLS program for overseas citizens, the mobile apps on my Android and iPad, and the hundreds of books I’ve been able to enjoy since I discovered BARD in 2013,” Collins said. “But when I think of NLS, I think of Raj. NLS could not have a better ambassador.
“Raj is kind, gentle, patient, responsive and warm. He responds to my emails as if nothing could possibly be more important, and always adds a thoughtful comment or two from the heart regarding what I’ve recently read or something I said.”
Because he is usually the only point of contact that overseas patrons have with NLS, Raj has gotten to know many of them, albeit from afar. He recalls one in Oaxaca, Mexico, the widow of an admiral who donated all of his books to the local library. “She used to write long, long letters to me. I miss her very much.” A patron from Israel and her husband stopped by NLS to visit Raj on a trip to the United States. “They gave me a shekel,” he said, smiling at the memory.
Raj has already cut back his schedule to three days a week, part of the Library of Congress phased retirement program. Once his retirement is official at the end of September, he looks forward to spending more time with his wife of fifty-one years, Premkumari Rathan Raj, a retired office manager at the World Bank, and their two children—a son who is a physician in Portland, Oregon, and a daughter who is a senior health development officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Washington area. He also plans to spend time with his extended family back in India, volunteer at his church or a local library, and enjoy—or try to enjoy—watching Washington’s hapless football team (although he gave up his season’s tickets last year).
What has Raj most enjoyed about his long career at NLS? “It’s the satisfaction I get from serving people who are blind and handicapped and knowing what NLS means to them,” he said.
And overseas patrons need not worry—NLS plans to continue exemplary services for U.S. citizens living abroad who benefit from special-format materials.
This story appears in the April–June 2018 issue of NLS News.
BARD security change
To enhance security of patron accounts and prevent misuse, NLS has made the following changes to BARD:
Any patron account that has not been used in one year or more will be moved to an Inactive/Suspended status. Each day, BARD will check to see if a patron account was last used more than one year ago. When BARD identifies unused accounts, these accounts will be moved to the Inactive/Suspended status, and libraries will be sent an automated email that lists affected accounts. Any BARD account that holds the status of Inactive/Suspended can be reactivated quickly and easily by contacting the Overseas Librarian.
Minibibliography: William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
William Shakespeare is widely considered one of the world’s greatest writers. Since the beginning of his playwriting career in the 1590s, his plays have been produced all over the world and have been translated into more than eighty languages—including, for Star Trek fans, Klingon. Shakespeare’s influence extends far beyond his plays; people who have never seen or read his work use expressions such as “elbow room,” “full circle,” and “foregone conclusion” that were introduced in his plays.
Information about Shakespeare’s life is incomplete and has given rise to many conflicting theories about his identity and background. The exact dates when his plays were written are unknown, but they were produced between 1590 and 1614. Between 1592 and 1594, when theaters closed because of a bubonic plague outbreak, he turned to writing poetry. After Shakespeare’s death, members of his King’s Men acting company, concerned with keeping his memory alive, compiled and published an authorized edition of the plays. Ben Jonson, Shakespeare’s contemporary and rival, contributed a poem as preface in which he wrote, “He was not of an age, but for all time.”
This minibibliography lists thirty-eight plays and several volumes of poetry. All titles can be requested from the Overseas Librarian by completing the order form below. The digital braille and talking-book titles can be downloaded from the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) website. Contact the Overseas Librarian to register for BARD. Registered users may also download audio titles on iOS and Android devices using the BARD Mobile app. Braille titles may be downloaded using the app on an iOS device linked by Bluetooth to a refreshable braille display.
All’s Well That Ends Well
A young woman saves a king’s life and is given her choice of husbands. The man she loves does not reciprocate her affection, and she attempts to claim him legally if not amorously.
Download BR 09412
Download DB 26343
As You Like It
Pastoral comedy set in the court usurped by Duke Frederick and in the Forest of Arden, where the rightful duke and his followers wander in a maze of romances and mixed identities.
Download BR 12100
Download DB 26344
The Comedy of Errors
Egeon and Emilia name each of their twin sons Antipholus and hire twin attendants, each named Dromio. Shipwreck separates the family, dividing it in half. The son who lives with Egeon takes his Dromio in search of his mother and his twin and fails to return. Egeon goes to Ephesus, an unfriendly place for a man from Syracuse, to look for them, but a demand for ransom and mistaken identity complicates matters.
Download BR 09544
Download DB 26443
Love’s Labour’s Lost
The king of Navarre and three of his friends swear to avoid the company of women for three years and to devote themselves to study. Their plans go awry when the charming princess of France arrives on a diplomatic mission with three vivacious ladies.
Download BR 09236
Download DB 35679
Measure for Measure
Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, has been lax about enforcing chastity laws. Fearing protests if he calls for reforms, he appoints Angelo to act as his deputy and pretends to leave town. Disguised as a friar, the duke observes the zealous prosecutor and becomes alarmed by the cruelty of his decisions. He must quickly reassume leadership to clear up entanglements and to save a young gentleman’s life.
Download BR 09259
Download DB 36570
The Merchant of Venice
A five-act comedy about love, marriage, and exacting justice. Portia, disguised as a man, defends Antonio in court against Shylock, who is demanding a pound of flesh in payment for a debt.
Download BR 11789
Download DB 21495
The Merry Wives of Windsor
In this comic drama, Falstaff, a rowdy drunkard pinched for funds, decides to make love to the wives of two wealthy citizens of Windsor, since it is the wives who control their husbands’ money. But Nim and Pistol, discarded associates of Falstaff, warn the husbands of Falstaff’s plans, and a series of merry assignations begins.
Download BR 09186
Download DB 35680
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A five-act comedy revolving around the upcoming wedding of the Duke of Athens. The action takes place in the woods where lovers converge, the king and queen of fairies quarrel, Puck causes mischief, and workmen rehearse a play for the wedding.
Download BR 11765
Download DB 23336
Much Ado about Nothing
This comedy concerns two pairs of lovers. Before Hero and Claudio can find happiness together, they must sort out the complications of Don John’s false accusations. Meanwhile, Beatrice and Benedick match wits and fall in love.
Download BR 13166
Download DB 51553
The Taming of the Shrew
Katherina is a young woman of violent whims and tempers. Her father is so eager to see her married that he forbids his younger daughter, Bianca, to marry first. Petruchio, an imperturbable gentleman from Verona, accepts Katherina’s hand and begins the relentless taming process.
Download BR 09157
Download DB 35793
Fraternal twins Viola and Sebastian are separated by shipwreck. Viola masquerades as Cesario, a page who acts as the Duke Orsino’s envoy of love to Countess Olivia, who in turn falls in love with Cesario. Sebastian arrives and mistaken identities precede a happy reunion.
Download BR 09252
Download DB 36569
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
A romantic comedy about two sets of lovers. Proteus is in love with Julia. Valentine goes to Milan and falls in love with Silvia. When Proteus visits his friend, he too falls for Silvia. Meanwhile Julia, dressed as a boy, becomes a page to Proteus. Complications and heartbreak ensue.
Download BR 10924
Download DB 44339
Antony and Cleopatra
Mark Antony provokes Cleopatra with his marriage to Octavia, the sister of his rival, Octavius Caesar. When the marriage and the political alliance break down, Antony returns to Egypt. In the ensuing battle, Antony loses his military power, the respect of friends and followers, love, and even the opportunity for an honorable death.
Download BR 10166
Download DB 26930
Caius Marcius, a haughty Roman general, is given the surname Coriolanus after defeating the Volscians in the battle of Corioli. Persuaded to seek election to the consulship, he is eventually banished from Rome by fickle plebeians. The play records his attempts to get revenge.
Download BR 09162
Download DB 35677
Prince Hamlet’s uncle seduced Hamlet’s mother, killed his father, and usurped his royal claim. Hamlet tries to avenge his father’s murder, but his melancholic, irresolute temperament inhibits decisive action and contributes to further calamities.
Download BR 17783
Download DB 24285
A tragedy concerning a petulant king and his three daughters. Amid much other, more political action, Lear is taken in by false avowals of love from two of his daughters, and disinherits a third because of her refusal to flatter him.
Download BR 09396
Download DB 29214
The victorious general Macbeth, spurred on by his ambitious wife, murders Duncan, the king, while he is a guest in Macbeth’s castle. Once Macbeth sets himself upon this path, he must clear further obstacles.
Download BR 09269
Download DB 24293
Othello, a Moor in the service of Venice, marries a senator’s daughter. He overcomes her father’s opposition, but is sabotaged by Iago, an older soldier he failed to promote. By prevarication, Iago creates jealousy leading to confusion and tragedy.
Download BR 10163
Download DB 35241
Download DB 36695
Romeo and Juliet
Two teenagers from rival families fall in love. A sentence of exile and an impending arranged marriage force the two to flee. A friar suggests a ruse to accomplish their union, but miscommunication causes it to backfire.
Download BR 10925
Download DB 44353
Download DB 70985 (Spanish language)
Timon of Athens
Satire on Timon, an extravagant Athenian nobleman, who becomes bankrupt and loses his friends. He discovers gold and finds some who would renew their friendship. But he expresses his disdain for treasure and leaves an epitaph that curses humankind.
Download BR 10923
Download DB 44322
Titus Andronicus, a noble Roman general, returns after his victory over the Goths, bringing their queen and her sons with him. Titus turns his attention to seeking revenge for the atrocities that have been committed against his family. Later, his promises turn to reality in a grotesque and bloody sequence of deception, barbarism, and cruelty.
Download BR 09150
Download DB 35684
Troilus and Cressida
Troilus, one of the King of Troy’s five sons, is in love with Cressida, the daughter of Calchas, a Trojan priest siding with the Greeks. Calchas, knowing that Troy is about to fall to the Greeks, flees, leaving Cressida to be taken prisoner. Although Cressida vows to remain faithful to Troilus, he witnesses her betrayal.
Download BR 09218
Download DB 35791
Cymbeline, a British king, banishes his daughter Imogen’s husband in disapproval of their secret marriage. The queen, second wife to the king, connives to arrange a match between Imogen and her own son, Cloten. A series of deceptions cause all to believe Imogen dead, but coincidences lead to some happy reunions.
Download BR 09108
Download DB 35678
Pericles, Prince of Tyre, attempts to win the king of Antioch’s daughter by solving the monarch’s riddle. Upon guessing the king’s incestuous relationship with Princess Hesperides, Pericles is banished. He is shipwrecked and marries a foreign princess, who appears to die in childbirth. Years of confusion and mishap precede a joyous family reunion.
Download BR 09109
Download DB 35681
Prospero, Duke of Milan, is ousted from his throne by his brother Antonio and banished with his daughter Miranda to a primitive island. Years later, a shipwreck deposits Antonio and his collaborators on the island. Prospero, knowledgeable about magic, releases spellbound spirits who help him undo his usurper.
Download BR 09178
Download DB 35683
The Winter’s Tale
King Leontes of Sicilia banishes his wife Hermione for her attention towards Leontes’s friend, King Polixenes of Bohemia. He creates disaster in both households before things are resolved happily for all.
Download BR 09131
Download DB 35685
Henry IV, Part 1
Depicts the early years of the reign of England’s Henry IV. The Earl of Northumberland’s son, Hotspur, becomes Henry’s opponent. Eventually Henry’s son, Prince Hal, leaves the merrymaker Falstaff to join the battle at Shrewsbury against Hotspur. Annotated version with historical background and essay on literary perspective.
Download BR 11571
Download DB 49020
Henry IV, Part 2
An annotated version of the play involving Prince Hal, Falstaff, and the troubled monarch, Henry IV. Provides historical perspective and plot summaries. Defines obscure terms and uses modern spelling.
Download BR 11572
Download DB 49248
The newly ascended king of England first deals with three suspected traitors. Then, on a pretext, Henry invades France to claim the throne. After his victory in the battle of Agincourt, there is a huge celebration, and Henry turns his attention to his courtship of Catherine of France.
Download BR 09388
Download DB 35686
A three-part historical drama. The first part deals with the French-English wars during the early fifteenth century. Part II includes Henry’s marriage and Yorkist intrigues. In Part III Henry surrenders the crown and is later murdered by an unscrupulous duke.
Henry VI, Part 1
A three-part historical drama opens with the funeral of King Henry V at Westminster Abbey. The play, based on the fifteenth-century French-English wars, reveals the schemes of military leaders to advance themselves even at the expense of England, often taking advantage of their inexperienced ruler, Henry VI, whose opponent was Joan of Arc. In the final act, the young king considers peace with France and marriage.
Download BR 10128
Download DB 39593
Henry VI, Part 2
In Part II the earl of Suffolk secures a favorable position for himself when he arranges a marriage between the young king and Margaret of Anjou. But the peaceful scene is disturbed when the terms of the contract become known. A famous quarrel erupts between Queen Margaret and a duchess, the nobility jockey for power, rebels take to the streets, and the royal couple flee.
Download BR 09279
Download DB 36893
Henry VI, Part 3
In Part III Henry surrenders the crown and is later murdered by an unscrupulous duke.
Deals with the fall and death of the Duke of Buckingham; the question of the king’s divorce; and the disgrace and demise of Cardinal Wolsey. Later, the play turns to the archbishop of Canterbury’s success over his enemies and to the christening of a princess, who becomes Queen Elizabeth I.
Download BR 09183
Download DB 35792
Deals with King John’s cruelty toward Arthur, his nephew and the rightful heir to the throne. Other principal characters include Constance, Arthur’s grieving mother, and the Bastard, illegitimate son of Richard I, John’s late brother.
Download BR 10165
Download DB 37675
Richard II, a weak and ineffectual king, settles a quarrel and exiles Henry Bolingbroke for ten years. Henry returns to claim his inheritance, murders the king’s supporters, imprisons Richard, and usurps the throne.
Download BR 09244
Download DB 35682
All the Love Poems of Shakespeare
This volume includes the complete “Venus and Adonis” as well as “The Passionate Pilgrim,” “A Lover’s Complaint,” and the sonnets.
Shakespeare: Songs from the Plays
Songs and lyrics from seventeen of Shakespeare’s plays and from Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen.
Download DB 21494
Sonnets 1 to 126, addressed to a young man, and sonnets 127 to 154, to a dark-haired woman, are introduced by poet W.H. Auden, who discusses the erotic and sexual aspects of the themes.
Download DB 24580
The complete collection of 154 sonnets attributed to Shakespeare, without commentary. Sonnets 1 to 126 are addressed to a beloved friend—a young man—while Sonnets 127 to 152 are to a lady of dark beauty, and the last two poems are adaptations of a Greek epigram.
Download DB 50129
Order Form for Books
Mail to: Overseas Librarian
National Library Service for the
Blind and Physically Handicapped
Washington, DC 20542
Fax: (202) 707-0712 Email: [email protected]
____BR09412 All’s Well that Ends Well
____BR12100 As You Like It
____BR09544 The Comedy of Errors
____BR09236 Love’s Labour’s Lost
____BR09259 Measure for Measure
____BR11789 Merchant of Venice
____BR09186 The Merry Wives of Windsor
____BR11765 A Midsummer Night’s Dream
____BR13166 Much Ado about Nothing
____BR09157 The Taming of the Shrew
____BR09252 Twelfth Night
____BR10924 The Two Gentleman of Verona
____BR10166 Anthony and Cleopatra
____BR10164 Julius Caesar
____BR09396 King Lear
____BR10925 Romeo and Juliet
____BR10923 Timon of Athens
____BR09150 Titus Andronicus
____BR09218 Troilus and Cressida
____BR11571 Henry IV, Part 1
____BR11572 Henry IV, Part 2
____BR09388 Henry V
____BR01078 Henry VI
____BR10128 Henry VI, Part 1
____BR09279 Henry VI, Part 2
____BR01518 Henry VI, Part 3
____BR09183 Henry VIII
____BR10165 King John
____BR09244 Richard II
____BR11637 Richard III
____DB26343 All’s Well That Ends Well
____DB26344 As You Like It
____DB26443 The Comedy of Errors
____DB35679 Love’s Labor’s Lost
____DB36570 Measure for Measure
____DB21495 Merchant of Venice
____DB35680 Merry Wives of Windsor
____DB23336 A Midsummer Night’s Dream
____DB51553 Much Ado about Nothing
____DB35793 The Taming of the Shrew
____DB36569 Twelfth Night
____DB44339 The Two Gentlemen of Verona
____DB26930 Anthony and Cleopatra
____DB25921 Julius Caesar
____DB29214 King Lear
____DB44353 Romeo and Juliet
____DB44322 Timon of Athens
____DB35684 Titus Andronicus
____DB35791 Troilus and Cressida
____DB49020 Henry IV, Part 1
____DB49248 Henry IV, Part 2
____DB35686 Henry V
____DB39593 Henry VI, Part 1
____DB36893 Henry VI, Part 2
____DB35792 Henry VIII
____DB37675 King John
____DB35682 Richard II
____DB46488 Richard III