Lahore Book Shops: Gone With the Wind

Guest Post by Darwaish

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.

First, I couldn’t believe that all those lovely book shops I once loved are really gone one by one but then I realized it had to happen, keeping in mind the ever dwindling lack of interest in reading book in our society. General public has lost interest in book reading and for sellers it is no longer a profitable business.

There used to be atleast 10 book shops at Mall Road only just 8 or 10 years ago but only TWO exist now.

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”?.

Darwaish blogs on his own blog la vie en rose and also contributes to Metroblog Lahore, where a version of this post first appeared and was later re-posted at Pakistaniat

17 responses to “Lahore Book Shops: Gone With the Wind

  1. hi i see your blog,it is nice blog,
    i am new-comer, i have new blog.can you see my blog and tell your ideas.

  2. Sad as it is that the bookshops on the Mall have gone away, there are some interesting new ones that have opened up in other parts of Lahore… The Last Word, and Readings on the Main Boluevard. While the reading scene in the west is far more vibrant and one that our society should aspire to catch-up with and surpass, nonetheless, reading does seem to be unpopular with the youth of today regardless of geography. Steve Jobs’ greatest criticism of the new Amazon Kindle ebook reader was simply that it was a great device for a market that doesn’t exist… people don’t read anymore. They listen to iPods.

  3. yes, sadly i think not-reading is a growing worldwide phenomenon among those segments of various populations who are actually able to read.

    when i was in school and for years afterwards, there was never a time when i wasn’t reading a book, and had any number of other books waiting to be read. now i myself rarely read a book. and how can one blame a young generation with so many other outlets.

    growing up all i had was six hours of mix-murabba ptv and my father’s not poorly stocked library to entertain myself with. oh, and about 20 or so lp records which i would listen to ad infinitum (i think my copies of physical grafitti and deep purple in rock were the most played).

    but there’snothing like the musty smell of an old book to bring back any number of wonderful memories. i sometimes bury my nose in a book (literally) and flip the pages to imbibe the delicious aroma.

  4. kia yaad kara dia!!

    I miss my old Lahore and its bookshops too. I was a regular customer of Russian Book House and Imperial Book Depot.

  5. Dr.Daniyal Nagi

    Those were good days of lahore when we were growing up .We use to live in Ganga Ram Mansion on the Mall,and I was a regular visitor to those book shops. with my father..In addition to the ones mentioned above,there were friday foot path shops in Anarkali .Plus 2 good book stalls in verandahs of old Tollington Market.And we use to buy Eind Blytons famous five,secret seven,Hardy Boys and Biggles,plus Ishtaq Ahmed story books.
    Wish those days are back.
    Dr.daniyal Nagi

  6. Nice read. When I was growing up there used to be book sellers shop in almost every other street and bazaar. One could buy a Tarzan and Manku Langoor or Tilismi Shahzadi aur Kaala Dayo story books in 50 paisas or a slightly larger story book in 1 rupee. Then there were Imran series and Ishtiaq Ahmed. You have rightly mentioned people selling books around bible society area and anarkali but they are long gone.

    Now when I walk on the old streets, I only find CD and video game shops.

    The modern shops in Liberty or Main market are not as good and they have very expansive books. Very small percentage of Pakistanis read anyways so I guess it doesn’t matter. It is really sad.

    Thank you for bringing back memories.

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  8. In my childhood I read many books like Imran series, Suspense Jasoosi and Women digests, Ishtiaq Ahmad inspector Jamshiad series etc. Time has changed. There is growing price hike. Internet provide cheap alternative to book reading. You can read my articles free.

  9. Hey, buddy, MIRZA BOOK AGENCY IS STILL THERE, i dont know whether the owner u met was the owner or his two sons, his two sons still run the shop !!!!

  10. Syed Qaisar Imam

    I want the sufi Book Israr-e-Haqiqi by Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti Ajmery , the Address: AKBAR BOOK SELLER
    40 URDU BAZAR,
    LAHORE, will u let me know the phone and location of the this shop

  11. dear sir,
    I Need College Admission Book.Please Send Me Admission Book.
    Address,House#8St#8Nolakha Park Faiz Bagh Lahore Pakistan

  12. I need Falsafa aur Mahashara by jameel umer

  13. +I need Falsafa aur Mahashara by jameel umer

  14. very good information posted about books collection and reading habbits

  15. I really was initially researching for plans for my own site and observed ur post,
    “Lahore Book Shops: Gone With the Wind | Lahore Nama”, do you mind in case I utilize some of your own suggestions?
    With thanks -Herman

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