Home | Columns | Poetry | Opinions | Biography | Photo Gallery | Contact

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Of Small And Big Funerals

I had no intention of visiting Zainab Market and roaming about in Elphinstone (now Zaibun nisa) street at that hour of the evening as the driver was to be set free after he would drop me back. I would come later on foot and spend, as usual, hours in that part of the city. This was my standing habitué for last many decades whenever I would travel to Karachi. But when I did not see the age-old sign board of Almaas Book Shop in front of Zainab Market, I got panicky and asked the driver to sideline the vehicle. A panwaala was handling his customers at the closed door of the shop. I, while sitting in the car, called him. He moved towards my open glass window after a considerable period of time elapsed.

“There used to be a book shop here. Has it been closed?” “yes. It has been sold out”.

“and where is the old shopkeeper?

“I do not know.”

The doomed shopkeeper was an elderly Persian speaking Parsi whom I used to visit whenever I came to Karachi. Besides practicing my rusty Persian, I would graze books of classical and modern Persian poetry fabulously produced by Iranians. He would proudly show me his latest imports. At times, when my budget stuck out, I would buy some of these books which later on, would further increase my wife’s impuissance on ever increasing number of books in our rented accommodation.

Death of this bookshop is not the first catastrophe for book lovers. When I started my civil service career from Karachi in early seventies, recalling painfully, there were a number of bookshops in Elphinstone Street. Entering from Regel, one would come across “kitab Mahal” on the right side. It met its demise long ago. Last was the American book company which gave-up the ghost some years back. Now only two shops were left: Thomas and Thomas at one end of Elphinstone Street (Regel Side) and Almas Books at the other end (opposite Zainab Market).Let us see when the few squares of feet providing sanctuary to Thomas and Thomas give way to some more lucrative business.

A journalist has bewailed that recent funeral of a very famous columnist was attended by only a couple of hundred mourners at Lahore whereas that of Tipu Trukkanwala (Truck man) on the same day was attended by thousands. Tipu was a notorious underworld star of Lahore, equally popular among police and other people of that ilk. The truck drivers association called for a strike also to commemorate his death. In a society where there are no libraries and the book shops are vanishing fast, no wonder that hoods are more respected than scholars. A Ph.D professor is looked down upon as a“master” and a Patwaari or SHO is venerated in a far higher esteem. A magistrate summons principal of a college and assigns him ‘duty’ on some polling station. Majority of elected “Cream” of the society are not even graduate. In an era where more than half of cabinet members in countries like Singapore, even India, are Ph.Ds most of our ministers paint a dismal picture when speak or write, if ever they write !

The nation’s aversion to books and writers has brought the country where it finds itself today. How many bookshops are there in FATA and Swat? For that matter how many universities and colleges have been established in these areas during last sixty two years? What about Bugti and Mari areas and other parts of Baluchistan? Is there any university in Qalat, Zhob, Gwadar, Khuzdar or Chaman? Food streets are thriving .Bookshops are being shut down. Pak Tea house has been replaced by a tire shop. A multinational fast food outlet received thirty five thousand customers on its first day at Lahore. Open a branch of Borders, Waterstone’s or Barnes & Noble and see the knock over ! It is said that during a state visit to Kualalumpur, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan headed from airport straight to a fast food shop. Thanks to our stars, our politicians, whether elected or waiting for their turn, all are book lovers!

( This article was published in Daily The  News   on   04 Feb ,2010 with the  title, "Bookshops Dying" )

No comments:

Post a Comment


powered by worldwanders.com