We celebrate Mothers Day, Valentine’s Day, but today is the first time we are celebrating the National Book Day; I take that as a positive sign.
National Book Fund (NBF) Managing Director Mazharul Islam stated this at the inauguration of the National Book Fair held to observe the National Book Day on Monday. The day was all about paying tributes to the writers and literati, and fostering the love for books among children and adults alike.
Personifying iconic Pakistani figures such as Allama Iqbal, Benazir Bhutto and Parveen Shakir, fifth-graders of Global System of Integrated Studies School welcomed Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, the guest of honour, at the colourful event.
Islam said that students were “pleasantly surprised” to see photographs of their political leaders reading books at the event. Some students remarked that it was the first time they had seen their leaders carrying books.
Prime Minister Gilani began his address by taking an oath from the audience, to read more frequently in their free time, to buy more and gift more books and to treasure and respect books. He then proceeded to give the Bibliophile 2011 Award to Ghazi Salahuddin, a noted writer and columnist.
Gilani said the time when he was a student there was a trend of reading books, which has been replaced by computers. “While I support the use of information technology, the knowledge found in books is unparallel,” he said. He lauded the role of NBF and went on to pledge Rs5 million to the foundation. He said that NBF’s increasing number of mobile libraries, which allow free reading and offer books at 50% discounts, are successfully reviving the book culture.
Calling attention to Pakistan’s resilience in the face of the war on terror, natural disasters, and conflicts with neighbouring countries, Gilani noted that these problems can only be resolved through intelligent discourse that stems from the grace of a well-read individual. He said that he has started such dialogue with the likes of Manmohan Singh and hoped that these conflicts will be resolved soon.
Turning from readership, Gilani noted that many great books from the subcontinent have been written by people serving time in jails, as there they have plenty of time to think and write. He said that during his five-year sentence, he too had the time to write a book, “Chah-e-Yousaf-Say Sada”. He said the hardest part was not writing the book but coming up with its title; he shared that the title was inspired by Altaf Hussain Hali’s poetry. Gilani also quoted Maulana Rumi’s poetry to the audience as well as excerpts from his book.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Ghazi Salahuddin, who has a collection of 4,000 books in his personal library, disagreed that information technology is a threat to readership. He added that even though computers and other technologies are available worldwide, they have not dampened readership. He suggested that we need to focus on readers who are not initially interested in reading books.
The event also had musical performances on the merits of readership by singer Rukhsana Murtaza.
The fair will continue at the Pak-China Friendship Centre till April 26.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.
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