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Regional languages and literature

January 11, 2013

IN a city like Karachi where the culture of violence is thriving day by day, holding an event like the eight Karachi international book fair was a great feat. The event plainly illustrated the fact that there still exist people around us who love browsing through bookstalls and taking a few titles home.

The huge crowd attracted by the fair also somewhat challenged the myth that the culture of reading is fading away from our society.

Though there have been a variety of readings, ranging from poetry to fiction, history to philosophy and politics to religion in both Urdu and English languages, what was missing from the scene was the taste of regional literature.

Apart from Sindhi, books written in other major Pakistani languages were almost non- existent at the fair. Except from Sindhi publishers like Sindhica Academy, Sindhi Adabi Board and Sindhi Language Authority, no other publishing company or stall was dealing in regional literature.

Apart from the stall of the Pakistan Academy of Letters, where I spotted a couple of old translations produced in Urdu, I failed to locate a single book on Balochi language, literature and culture in any language let alone Balochi at any of the stalls. The same was the case with other major languages spoken in Pakistan, including Pashtu, Seraiki and Punjabi. It is an irony that publishers from Turkey, Iran and Dubai had set up stalls but publishers within the country, especially those dealing with regional languages and literature, were nowhere on the scene.

Had there been books, especially in Urdu or English translated from Balochi, Punjabi, Pashtu and Seraiki, they would have not only offered a window to the readers to glance through the scenario of regional literature but from these books one would have also measured the progress of regional literature.

Furthermore, they would have also kept readers abreast of the collective literary tastes of the people with different linguistic backgrounds. Whatever be the factors, the absence of regional literature reflects the fallacious approach of the organisers and their apathy towards the regional languages and literature. Overall, the event failed to serve as a bridge between regional languages and literature.