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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Reading Habits in Pakistan

Let’s daydream about the culture of reading in Pakistan: When I walk out of my house, I find a small library in every few lanes. People are so eager to read that they pay for borrowing books. These libraries lend books on daily rental fees.

Due to these trends, even general stores have started keeping books: the cold corner in my neighborhood makes more money selling books than it does on ice cream. The topics of books on these counters range from fiction and poetry to general history.

If this is just about shops which are not even book stores then you can imagine what proper book stores are like. There are at least three or four big ones (and a few book rentals) in every major market of the country.
Films and popular television serials spawn several unofficial tie-in books published by amateurs. These books also sell well, so nobody can say that the popularity of film or television is cutting down on people’s reading habits.

Publishers are growing like mushrooms, and there are more of them in low-income areas. In any such vicinity, you would easily find ten to thirty people who have published at least one small book in their lives.

Children read books because everybody is talking about them: if they don’t catch up on the latest fiction published for children in Urdu then they would have little to discuss with friends at school, most of whom are found comparing their favorite authors with others’.
Before you read the next paragraph, take a few moments and ask yourself: Would you like to see it happen? Would you like to be part of any effort to make it happen? How much time and resources would you be willing to spare, personally, if a serious effort was made to this end? But do you that this is possible in Pakistan any time in the future? Pause here and answer these questions before you read the next paragraph.
Now consider the irony. This is not a fantasy about the future of Pakistan but about its past. This is what our society used to be in the 1960s, 1970s and the early 1980s. Remember?
  • Why do you think this has changed? What went wrong?
Picture at top right shows the fiction-writer Ibne Safi (right) at Aziz Library, Nazimabad, in 1963. The thirtieth death anniversary of Ibne Safi passed yesterday, July 26, 2010.

14 comments:

Syeda Zehra said...

Sir I must agree that the majority of Pakistan's youth and old are away from books but there are some societies that still enjoy reading and discussing books.I'm a proud member of such a society too.
But I must admit I never read Urdu except for Ishtiaq Ahmed.
We really need to build a sense in ourselves to reAD and feel pride in it.

Connie L. Nash said...

We sure do need this kind of article out all over the USA as well!

Thanx for the good role-modeling and teaching for our youth as a whole.

Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

Yes this was not day dreaming by you I have personally seen all this happening, the small libraries in each vicinity, bookshops in every locality, there was a huge three stories book store Sasi Books at elphinstone street just opposite another giant book store Pak American. People were writing books at very young age and quite a few publishers were out there, I personally published seven books at the age of 25. The disillusionment came with the intolerance in the society which was not local it was planted by the adversaries first in East Pakistan and then here in this part of Pakistan.

Reading habits thrive when people have patience, tolerance and open mindedness, once a society lack this element the reading habits just evaporates. How somebody would read a 500 pages book to find out what is the real insight of endurance, when he has no patience even to stand in a queue of 10 people. But having said all this, I would say:

“Doar pechay ki taraf aye gardishe ayam tu”(Iqbal)

This happened once we can make it happen again!

Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

..and what a nice picture of Ibne Safi in white outfit, which was so common among “educated” people those days.

Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

..and what a nice picture of Ibne Safi in white outfit, which was so common among “educated” people those days.

fazlee said...

BISMILLAH UR REHMAN UR RAHEEM

Assalam-o-Alykum


well, the book is out of our society.the reason is very difficult to pin point, but i think our nation is not hardworking .we like short cut, easy ways to acheive our results, so the passion of reading is getting low because reading takes time to bring result and it is very difficult to sphare time for book.

i think 90%(% age may be wrong) of us never read quran by its tranlsation.so being muslim this is our role what to expect for other books.



another fact is books are not properly wriiten.there is concentration of books days by day but since publisher are not properly educated they dont know how to produce good results which are suitable for our market.these trends can easily monitor in book shops.



lastly all our government are least bothered about education, so no macro planning for this innocent book.





Thanks,

Regards,

Sajid Fazlee
Fazlee's Book Super Market
Urdu Bazar Karachi.
http://www.fazleebooks.com/
Ph: 0092-21-2212991
Ph: 0092-21-2629724

Karachiwala said...

Hello Khurram!
Loved reading this piece.
Like your other reader, I too grew up with those small, hole-in-the-wall libraries and borrowed books for 8 annas per week from there, from my school library and from the British Council library on Pakistan Chowk, and read hundreds of borrowed books like that.
Unless the paan-ki-dukaan at every nook and corner is either replaced with such book-lending shops, or the bookshops cum libraries similar to the multitudes of paan and cigarette shops opened, there will be a decline in reading habits. However, having said that, in the last decade a particular chain of bookstore has been doing quite well in Karachi...so we still have some hope :-)

Thinking said...

hmm...I can't figure out what went wrong or what brought such change in Pakistani youth...

All I understand is that we suddenly ceased reading good stuff...because we can't find good stuff...

If there are few good writers...they have become so business minded that they prefer money over readers...so not all the public of Pakistan which are mostly poor...can't buy good books.

This is basically...increase in prices of good books also which closed down all the small libraries...

We again in need of Ibn-e-Safi who not only nurture Pakistani youth with his good thoughts but also tamed the youth to become faithful to their country and be honest to their work.

He never pin pointed anyone but he gave a definite idea about Pakistan's (should be) strategy towards other countries.

As I heard so many times that we are waiting for someone to bring the change...I would say...we are waiting for someone to bring back the past....

connie nash said...

NOTE:

11:05 PM One Hour GEO TV re-broadcast of Ibne Safi Tribute 2010

http://oneheartforpeace.blogspot.com/2010/07/program-on-ibne-safi-to-air-monday-and.html

or just go one down on my blogsite:

http://oneheartforpeace.blogspot.com

Please spread the word on this favorite writer of fiction. There is so much depth yet unexplored in his works from what I understand so soon I'll be reading right along with you... Thanx!

fairymeadow2003 said...

i do remember such a golden era of coourse. But i blame our elders for this lack of interest among all other factors. I remember that i had to hide what i am reading so much that i have lost my interest in reading now when i have no restrictions. surprising is this phenomenon but this is my mental condition i think our previous generation was not very encouraging that is why when our generation have become parents we are also reluctant to encourage the children. But the pic is not very bleak although children are more fond of harry potter and ronald dauhl than our own urdu writers and fiction but atleast they openly read what ever they want and they will found such an ideal reading society very soon. :)

fairymeadow2003 said...

I think our elder generation is responsible i can tell it on my exp that books i mean extra curricular mag and fiction were too restricted that i had to hide them if i had a craving. now that i could read everything i want i have lost that craving and even the least interest. Although this is not the only factor many others also but what could my generation give to their young ones when we learned that reading should be hidden from parents. But the scenario is not so bleak children are still very fond of books no matter now they want to read ronald dahl and harry potter but at least they read fiction. and i hope that they would definitely found that ideal society once again which you so beautifully pictured.:)

chaman said...

I think there are too many distractions for younger children.In order to read they have to be interested.That is lacking in them.Also they are not encouraged by their elders.They think i.e the children,Reading is not cool anymore.They should spend their time doing nothing.
I used to teach.My kids loved to hear the story of,Roald Dahl's,Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.I tried to read the same book to the same age group.The looks they gave me,made me realize should close the book and let them scream at the top of their lungs which is what they thought was cool.This trend of not reading is not limited to Pakistan only.It is all over.The place I am talking about is Canada.
How it is going to change,I don't know.

chaman said...

I think there are too many distractions for younger children.In order to read they have to be interested.That is lacking in them.Also they are not encouraged by their elders.They think i.e the children,Reading is not cool anymore.They should spend their time doing nothing.
I used to teach.My kids loved to hear the story of,Roald Dahl's,Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.I tried to read the same book to the same age group.The looks they gave me,made me realize should close the book and let them scream at the top of their lungs which is what they thought was cool.This trend of not reading is not limited to Pakistan only.It is all over.The place I am talking about is Canada.
How it is going to change,I don't know.

Khurram Ali Shafique said...

@Chaman: I think that reading habits among the masses have declined as a result of a split between "high" and "popular" literature at the academic level.