‘Those who read books can never feel lonely’

April 24, 2019

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DR Rais Ahmed Samdhani speaks at NED’s City Campus on Tuesday.—White Star
DR Rais Ahmed Samdhani speaks at NED’s City Campus on Tuesday.—White Star

KARACHI: “We build malls but no libraries as Karachi grows,” said author, academic and critic Asif Farrukhi during World Book Day observed and organised by the archives section of the Department of Architecture and Planning at the NED University’s city campus here on Tuesday.

“Our youth only read from their smartphones, not books. They don’t want to read up further on what they get to read in their textbooks,” he added.

“Seeing books we start suffering from the ostrich syndrome. We call ourselves ahl-i-kitab [people of the book] but we are suffering from khauf-i-kitab [the fear of books],” he said. “Those who read books can never feel lonely or alone in this world.”

World Book Day observed in city

Earlier, Saadia Bano of the NED faculty said that Pakistanis face a dilemma in this day and age about their youth not reading books other than their course books. She also played a short video presentation about the archives section of NED, which is trying to revive the reading culture.

Senior journalist and activist Ghazi Salahuddin said that dry textbooks have actually created a problem. “Because when we tell students to read more books they think all books are as boring as they find their textbooks,” he said.

“But there is a thing such as reading for pleasure, reading to find oneself, reading to understand other people, reading to change your life. So read books on any subject that you may like because you are not complete without reading,” he said.

Coming to kinds of reading material, he spoke about fiction and poetry. “Reading fiction teaches you about human emotions and about developing empathy for others as you read heartbreaking, uplifting and hope-building stories. You live many lives when you read fiction and you can live in many eras when you read fiction. Sometimes imagination is more important than knowledge,” he said.

He gave the example of the Guardian newspaper’s book clinic column in which people are advised to read certain books to help them cope better with the problem or issue they are facing. “There is a novel called The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George in which the bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing precisely which books will soothe or heal the troubled souls of which customer. That is also the role of a librarian,” he said.

Dr Rais Ahmed Samdhani, a professor and also an author of some 35 books, said that physically a book is nothing but some papers bound inside a cover. “But what is important is the knowledge it carries between those covers,” he said while looking at the history of books from the tablet to the e-book. But again he too blamed the education system for taking people away from reading.

He also lamented that Pakistan didn’t have library legislation. “Our government schools don’t have libraries and only two per cent of our secondary schools have them,” he said.

“Our drawing rooms may have various decorations, but are there any books there?”

The day’s highlights also included the screening of the late film-maker Madiha Aijaz’s film These silences are all the worlds with a discussion about it by film-maker Mohammad Ali Hakeem. Dramatic readings by Asma Mundrawala and Saife Hasan of Zambeel Dramatic Readings were also enjoyed.

Simultaneously, a parallel session was run for the students of class four of AMI School. The session started with an orientation and a visit to the library followed by a video to understand the basic architectural elements. With that some poetry recital and singing activity was also introduced to them that included some old songs of the city and some new ones around the city’s heritage and environment. This activity was followed by a story-telling session led by educational consultant and founder of Goread.pk (a social media-based reading club for children) Nusser Saeed.

Finally, there was a team of youth ambassadors formed who took an oath to serve the cause of reading and promoting books. The pledge-taking ceremony was supervised by Mansoor Raza, a faculty member of DAP-NEDUET. Dean of Architecture and Management Sciences Dr Noman Ahmed and the chairperson Department of Architecture and Planning, NED University, Dr Anila Naeem presented their closing remarks.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019