KARACHI: Qamaruddin has been coming to Liaquat Memorial Library for the past nine years. Every morning at around 10 am he takes his favourite seat in the huge study hall and sinks his teeth into his books. He only takes breaks to pray and have tea, before heading back to his flat, which he shares with four friends, at around 9 pm.
This is how Qamar completed his BBA and this is exactly how he intends to work for his MBA.
“I came to Karachi in 2003. We don’t have a good college or university at home,” he says, looking up from the notes and mathematical equations on a bunch of papers on his desk.
“A friend showed me the library. The flat is too small and someone is always watching television or talking out loud.”
Qamar is among the hundreds of young students who have come to the city to study from Gilgit-Baltistan, Mardan, Turbat, Gwadar, Dadu, Larkana and other areas.
Most of the students live in nearby towns, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and FB Area, but some come even from Malir and Lines Area. For people like Qamar and his friends, this library is a huge part of their lives.
Twenty-one-year-old Himayatullah, a first-year student at SM Law College, came from Gilgit around five years back. He has been visiting the library regularly for the last three years.
“This is a good place for interacting with like-minded people,” he said. “Our seniors here are always ready to guide us on what to read. The current-affairs books are too expensive so it’s better to come down here.”
Nineteen-year-old Talha Ghafoor, who is doing his BSc, came from Turbat to prepare for his final exams. “Classes are almost never held there and finding tutors is also difficult,” he explains. “I am living with an uncle here to study for exams.”
Naseerullah, 23, a resident of Dadu, has been living in Karachi with a family friend and has also been coming to the Liaquat library for the last two months to prepare for the CSS exams. The library has a separate section for these kinds of students. “It’s all about the environment,” he says. “At home, you would want to watch television or use the internet, thinking you can study online. But you normally end up wasting time.”
Another advantage of studying at the library is that help is only an arm’s length away. “For example, just recently I was having problems with the format of an essay but a senior was here to guide me,” Naseerullah explains.
Sadly though, the library’s 172,000 books on Urdu and English literature, politics, science, history, culture, arts, economics, are gathering dust because almost all of the students come here just to study for exams.
Naheed Jahan, the senior librarian, said that the number of students has increased drastically in the past few years. “But there is no thirst for knowledge,” she said. “They all want to study for exams and only use the textbooks.”
There was a time when people used to come to libraries for the love of reading, said Jahan. “I am sure most of the students here right now have not read any work of Manto or Ismat Chughtai.”
In her 36 years of work at the library, Jahan has noted a gradual decline in reading habits as the parents push their children for better grades. Most of the students who come to the library are from blue-collar backgrounds and even all they have on their minds are exams. Jahan retires next year and wanted to leave a mark: “Please publish this couplet of Pirzada Ashiq,” she says. Sarror-e-ilm hai kaifay-e-sharab say behtar
Koi raqeeb nahi hai kitaab say behtar An intoxication with knowledge is better than intoxication with alcohol There is no better friend than a book
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2012.