Mall road is one of my favorite areas of Lahore and I have some wonderful childhood memories associated with it. There is no other road like it which we all love here in Lahore, probably because it’s so close to the heart of the old city.Yesterday while driving around the mall road, I decided to look for a book shop and buy 3 books which were long pending in one of my wish-list. So driving slowly, I started to recall the old books shops where I used to buy books with my father when I was a little child. To my great surprise and shock, I could only find Maqbool Academy which is located in famous Diyal Singh Mansion and Feroz Sons. All the other old book shops were either closed or they had changed their line of business.
For example, there used to be one small book shop near Regal Cinema gate inside the small lane (I forgot its name), where there are two flower vendors now. Also there was the Imperial Book Depot and across from Regal used to be the Classic Book House. Then across from Cathedral and High court was Russian Book House.
But my favorite was a small book shop at Regal, just on the left of Shireen Mehal. I think its name was Mirza Book Agency and not only they used to have the best ever collection of children”s edition of famous novels but also The Hardy Boys and every other comic collection. I still remember my father got me a pocket sized version of Charles Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities‘ from there long long time ago. This shop not only sold old books at low, affordable prices but they had a special taste in Urdu literature. The owner of that shop introduced me to some of the finest writers of Urdu literature and I can’t thank him enough for doing that (if only I can find him now).
Yes, Feroz Sons were there too but they were never in my good book atleast. First I never had so much money to spend when I was a kid and Feroz Sons were very expansive, still are I think. Second, I don’t know why but I loved old books. I guess old books smell different . So I always ended up at my favorite shop at Regal or Maqbool Academy and hey Bible Society had a lot to offer. But for me the best of them was Maqbool Academy because I could make use of 50% discount scheme by National Book Foundation which was huge relief for people like me. I don”t know if this scheme still exists.
I also recall people who would sell old books from defunct British collections, on a rug in the mud. My cousin once forced me to buy George Orwell’s ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying‘ for Rs. 10 which he then took with him to England. All gone. But I have seen a few such people in Anarkali and Bible Society even now.
Its a pity that, for whatever reasons, people have stopped reading books over the years. I don’t know if I am quoting right or not but I think it was in To Kill a Mockingbird that someone said in some connection with reading, “One doesn’t learn how to breathe”?.