The Sweet Serenity Of Books
“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
[George R.R. Martin]
With the arrival of technological based advancements such as internet, cable TV, e-reading devices as well as the lack of proper facilities along with poor law and order situation – it all contributed towards significant low print book readership and writing habit among the masses in our society.
In such grim circumstances, holding a book fair on annual basis is really a grand commitment and a big present for the common people. The Pakistan Publishers and Book-lovers Association (PPBA) in collaboration with National Book Foundation organized the largest annual book fair, the ninth Karachi International Book Fair at the Expo Centre from December 5 to 9.
The fair incorporates more than 300 stalls in three halls of Expo center, displaying an array of books from literature to general knowledge, from academic to religious, from cookbooks to colouring-books – all available under one roof.
Domestic as well as few international publishing houses, booksellers and publishers for instance, Iran, India and Turkey also exhibited exclusive and rare collection in the event.
The exhibition witnessed a large number of visitors, as numerous families, teachers, students, scholars, writers, poets and avid book-lovers browse their favorite literature.
Albeit there were an extensive range of books presented, all three halls without doubt had prominent stalls showcasing ample selection of religious books including the translations of Holy Qur’an, Islamic calligraphy, biographies and works of orthodox intellectuals, Muslim scholars, Islamic philosophy etc.
In other words, the large display of religious books overshadowed the book fair and attracted the major portion of the visitors who bought piles of pious books from these stands.
The second largest variety was of academic books ranging science subjects, from medical to engineering, from IT to business management, and from accountancy to law books attracted teachers and students. Dictionaries were also everywhere on special discounts.
The stalls belonging to literature (classical authors), historical, sci-fi, thrillers, fantasy books, prose and poetry offered both the Urdu and English language options to its readers. Works of Rumi, Iqbal, Faiz, Habib Jalib, Ghalib, Shakespeare, Emerson, Dickens, Austen, Bronte etc were available. The majority of the historical books on significant personalities and event were available mostly in Urdu language within a good price range.
Most of the stalls had banners claiming up to 50 – 70% discount thus compelling visitors to grab something for themselves. There were memoirs, biographies but the price range was quite exorbitant for an ordinary buyer. Some books available for as low as Rs 100 although their condition was not as good as the brand new.
Likewise, Urdu and English recipe-books, special diets, cookery books by celebrity chefs were available at 10 – 50 per cent discount. Children story books (offered both in Urdu and English), teaching resources, coloring books and DVDs were in abundance, accessible at very low prices.
There were special foreign magazines, teaching manuals and reference books available at discount. Encyclopedias and sets of Guinness world record books were also on display.
The Indian books were on the higher side of price range and so were the Irani and Turkish books. There were few visitors on these stalls may be due to high rates.
Unfortunately, the stalls particularly displaying Urdu literature and cultural heritage presented a deserted look; showing the mind-set of the nation especially the new generation. One such example is the stall set up by ‘Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Urdu’ an association founded by Maulvi Abdul Haq in 1903 in Aligarh for the promotion and development of Urdu language across the sub-continent.
Over all, the event offered satisfaction for buying at low price along with a recreational approach. Families were seemed overwhelmed with appreciation as there was an activity area devoted particularly for the children. Big names of the literary circle for example Sahar Ansari, Ghazi Salahuddin, Imran Chishti and Prof Anwar Ahmed Zai also attended the fair.
“These sorts of exhibitions can convey a message that Karachiites want peace and development” said a college teacher as this writer talked to her about the book fair.
“I really like (the book-fair) I am enjoying the display,” said Taimoor, an engineering student. “it is really a fun filliping through pages.”
Organizing such kind of fairs can definitely endorse the revival of book culture among the general public but it should be held at least twice a year, as the need of the hour is to encourage healthy activities. Moreover, organizers should take some steps to make sure that books are available at very reasonable prices; so an ordinary buyer can easily afford them.
After all, it is a book that helps understand our-self, our behavior, meanings of our friendships and community; thus developing and broadening and escalating our sense of life. Books are strongest tools for the progress of a civilization. They are the main source of change in a society.
Lacking a book culture will affect the behavior of our coming generations so silently that no body will notice it. We have to work today to save our future from further destruction by improving the atmosphere and taking steps towards better direction – not a herculean task, just encourage, reinforce and develop a good reading-writing habit among the inhabitants will improve the whole situation. As Henry David Thoreau articulated the significance of books in his famous book ‘Walden’ (Life in the Woods);
“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”