“The people of this city are fond of eating Tikkas rather than reading books”, these were the words of an owner of a famous book store in Peshawar which was forced to shut down, because of the lack of book readers and customers, while talking in a gathering.
Peshawar once had libraries, book shops and newspaper stalls everywhere, but unfortunately over the last decade the business of books has nearly finished. Book shops which used to be like treasures for book lovers and a place to spend time at, got closed one by one, and it was not that their owners didn’t wanted to continue but it was the absence of customers which made them to shut down their businesses.
The remaining book shops are surviving on selling course books and stationary. General books, novels, literature, poetry, story books or books on topics like religion, history and patriotism are not having proper customers in the city. Which indicates a big problem, a problem which cannot be taken for granted. It is a fact that the increase in the usage of internet, smart phones, tablets and laptops the information is easily accessible for the users but the importance of a book remains the same, and this is why several developed countries who are leading and are playing a role of trend setters in the fields of science and technology still have their libraries and book shops running.
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them."
The biggest library in the world is the Library of Congress, Built in 1800 in Washington, D.C. More over there are an estimated 119,487 libraries of all kinds in the United States today.
The United Kingdom is home to over 4.1 thousand public libraries and 950 academic libraries, including the British Library, one of the largest in the world with collection holdings exceeding 150 million items.
In China, the Shanghai Municipal Library, one of the largest public libraries in the country, contained over 7 million volumes, nearly 1 million of which were in foreign languages. The Shanghai Library, well known at home and abroad, is China’s largest provincial-level library.
People are spending most of their time on social media websites or surfing on internet. They do not have any control over the time they spend on their phones or laptops, nor do the have any check on their children. New research conducted by British psychologists shows that young adults use their smartphones roughly twice as much as they estimate that they do. In fact, the small preliminary study found that these young adults used their phones an average of five hours a day — that’s roughly one-third of their total waking hours. The situation of people in Pakistan is not very different either. If we try to take a rough survey in the bus we are traveling, in the class we are studying or in the office we are working we will get results somewhere near to these.
“The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend. When I read over a book I have perused before, it resembles the meeting with an old one"
Back in the times we had a culture of story telling in our families, where the elders of the family used to read books, journals, magazines and story books to share stories and interesting passages which used to had a very positive and long lasting affect on the young ones in the family. There used to be a tradition of story telling in market places and tea shops, where people used to gather and listen to the story tellers. And we had a culture of gifting books to friends and family on different occasions. But as the time passed, all of these activities came to an end, and we seldom see any of these activities happening around us.
I am not saying that with the development in technology we shouldn’t have had moved forward nor am i trying to say that watching TV, using smartphones or working on laptops is not good, but the point what i want to raise is that the excess of everything is bad and innovations are good but balancing them with the good things in the our culture and traditions is as important as the innovations themselves.
Books are something which let you explore and think about the things happening around you, they make you feel relevant to things you are irrelevant to, and they change your perspective on things you don’t want to change your perspective on. Books are like mirrors, they show you the mistakes you would never admit and they teach you how to learn from those mistakes. A book can be a bond between two people and at the same time it has the power to unite a divided Nation.
The city of Peshawar has been under continuous attack of terrorism, hundreds of thousands of people got affected as a result. And the thing which was specifically targeted and got affected the most was education. The reason behind terrorism no doubt is the lack of education; Education about Islam, about IT and modern sciences, about our culture, traditions and our history.
Nations who once tastes the taste of having their Culture, Traditions, Fashion, Language and Lifestyle on the top in the World never ever compromise on education. The culture of book reading is an essential part of the education system. Studying course books may make you learn scientific formulas and methods but they are not designed to affect our basic concepts nor do they have something to do with the change and revolution inside ourself.
Note by the owner of a famous Bookshop closed down because of continuous losses in Peshawar.
Not only in Peshawar, but across Pakistan situation is the same regarding book reading where the culture of libraries is going extinct and the number of book shops is also shrinking. However, we are finding a noticeable increase in book readers community online with lots of people reading books in their bedrooms. This reflects a simple fact. People have less time to actually visit a physical library for recreational reading but the same people are pretty happy reading the same book in the comfort of their cozy homes.
We should encourage online book sellers around us by urging people to go and buy books from them so that they can stick to the businesses related to books. And when we have a look at our fellows here in Peshawar, well they would like to spend more time eating Charsi Tikkas and less time reading addictive books. Well my last statement was just a joke. Have a prosperous day folks!
By Hassan Bashir He is a young entrepreneur, blogger, speaker, and student activist from Peshawar. He is currently enrolled in Chartered Accountancy program and also running an online bookstore which was initially started by his father Engr. Muhammad Bashir in 1998. He did O’Level from Lahore Grammar School and A’Level from Beaconhouse School system.