RECENTLY I was in Karachi to participate in the literature festival. While in Karachi I also have had the opportunity of visiting some academic institutions and literary organisations.
Viewing some of these venues was rather a disappointing experience as many of the buildings were crippling and infested with pile of trash and rubbish. Some of their promoters were found offering lectures on subjects which were theoretical and perfunctory.
They were increasingly interested in mindless image-mongering and producing fiction which could at best be described as ‘promising’. In particular, my visit to Karachi University was a severe blow to my preconceived academic and aesthetic conceptions as I found students reading their lessons near piles of trash and rubbish.
Some of the surroundings were representative of double deprivation with nothing to offer but salutary surroundings. The library, which ought to be the intellectual corridor of an institution, was also not clean and salubrious.
As an educator, I was aware that there was something wrong with the basic transmission of knowledge, and the implementation of a healthy and creative form of educational package. The educator, whose business is to teach students the theories of healthy development-oriented subjects, is often found to be unaware of the ensemble of relations which exist to salvage physical and intellectual environments.
The teacher himself is unaware that there is a difficulty in transmitting Shakespeare’s sonnets if they are not presented in palatable surroundings, and the lessons of botany and biology will be converted into rotten convulsions if they are not given the hues and nuances which are supposed to embellish them.
While celebrating the role of education and books in cultivating the intellectual and cultural patterns of the nation, we have to highlight the endowment of healthy surroundings which are found to be miserably depleting in Karachi, as well as in other parts of the country.
Coming back from Cambridge and constrained to live in Gujranwala in itself is an unpleasant experience emanating from unhealthy and unattractive environments.
However, such environments should not have been the fate of Karachi and its institutions which deserve to be preserved and adored.
Therefore, there is hardly any use organising literary festivals and sending students to universities if there are no healthy environments to nourish the soul and nurtu re the mind.
DR IQBAL S. HUSSAIN Gujranwala