Karachi literati bemoan dying literary culture

The environment of a library teaches us discipline, says Prof Sherwani

Our Correspondent September 06, 2018
Dying literary culture bemoaned. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: If you open a book at any library, on the initial pages, a message will refer you to page 32. On page 32, there will be another message asking you to look at page 64 where you'll be asked to turn to the last page. In the end, the words will typically read 'bana dya na ghada' [you've been fooled].

This was stated by Bait al-Hikmah Hamdard University Library Director Prof Malahat Kaleem Sherwani on Wednesday at a panel discussion titled, 'Do Libraries Effect Behaviour of Present Day Society' at the Third Annual Book Fair 2018 held at Indus Valley School.

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This activity, according to her, is like an adventure for students who sometimes do not even refrain from tearing pages out of books. "The environment of a library is very effective. It teaches us discipline," she said, adding that in our society, schools lack libraries. "And it is exactly the time when the behaviour of our children is shaped," she said.

According to her, schools are more 'textbook-inclined' and do not focus on general books at all. "These incidents of book theft and tearing occur because our children aren't trained on how to use books and libraries," she said. In higher education institutes, she added, the students bring food to the libraries which destroy the books.

Sherwani said that public libraries are frequently visited by the retired people, housewives and dropouts who are willing to gain knowledge. "There are around 290 public libraries in Karachi constructed with public funds and money," she said adding that the highest number of books are in public libraries which are not frequented by the people in Karachi.

She further added that she personally knew ladies who loved to read Reader's Digest and Akhbar-e-Jahan but were unable to continue with the habit as they have become expensive and the condition of public libraries is so bad, they aren't worth visiting. She added that a housewife who takes her child to tuitions or school could easily visit a public library rather a shopping mall. She said that there should be easily accessible libraries.

Mumtaz S Memon who runs Zahid Suleman Library System believes that libraries are the mirror image of a society and that they can help develop reading habit in young children. She asked mothers to inculcate reading habit in their children by reading to them from the early age of one until they are able to read themselves.

Memon initiated her library programme in rural areas in the memory of her son, Zahid Suleman, who was shot dead in a mugging incident. "My son was very fond of reading books," she said politely.  She asked parents to encourage their children to read books be it in any language. "Books are usually very expensive, but from libraries, you can get it almost for free," she said adding that rather than giving toys as gifts, books should be given.

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She said that when we read a book, we connect with people who have had an impact on the society and their ideas also help nurture our minds.

"Our stress reduces when we read a book," Memon said adding that for librarians success was reaching more people not earning more money.  Indus Valley School Design Faculty Dean Prof Emer Shehnaz Ismail said that libraries affect your wellbeing because it's a room that commands silence and the calm environment that it forms, influences and calms you. "It's almost therapeutic because you are surrounded by the treasure of knowledge. You feel humbled," she added.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2018.


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