Category Archives: Books

Reclaiming Lahore – LLF 2015

This article was originally published here

The Lahore Literary Festival came as a breath of fresh air on the city’s depleted cultural landscape

llf3

“Pata nahin kee hai, koi kitaaban da mela lagda hai,” one of the numerous policewomen deployed outside the Alhamra Arts Council last weekend was overheard saying perplexedly into her phone. It was easy to understand her confusion for it’s not every day that the city witnesses an event of the magnitude that was the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF).

Spread over three days, the festival put up a remarkable 75 sessions that gave the people of the city, as well as those who’d converged on to the Alhamra from various parts of Pakistan, a taste of literature, politics, culture and music. The sessions ranged from tributes to Pakistan’s legends such as Madam Noor Jehan and Faiz Ahmed Faiz to talks by the country’s new generation of fiction writers including Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid and Bilal Tanveer, interspersed by discussions on global and regional politics that engaged international journalists such as Roger Cohen of the NY Times and Lyse Doucet of BBC with local experts and politicians.

Continue reading

When Jews found refuge in an unlikely place: Pakistan

Growing Up Jewish in Lahore — And in an Internment Camp

Kahan

From left, Hazel Kahan, her mother Kate, and her brother Michael, in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1948. / Photo by Hazel Kahan / The Forward

By Gabe Friedman

 

When Hazel Kahan went back to Lahore, Pakistan, in 2011 for the first time in 40 years, her childhood homes were completely different. Her first home, formerly a tan stone mansion covered in flowery vines, was now completely painted in white and inhabited by the Rokhri family, one of Pakistan’s most powerful political clans. Her second home, where her parents had run a medical clinic, had become the Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and Arts.

After living in England, Australia and Israel, and having worked in market research in Manhattan for years, Kahan, 75, now lives in Mattituck, on the North Fork of Long Island. She produces interviews for WPKN radio in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and has recently begun discussing her family history in public presentations, telling a story that illustrates how complicated citizenship and allegiances were for Jews during and after World War II in Pakistan and beyond. She has presented her piece “The Other Pakistan” in Woodstock and Greenport, New York and twice in Berlin. She plans to bring her performance to Montreal in November.

“I never really cared about it, I never bothered, until [my father] died [in 2007],” Kahan said of the project. “Then I realized there’s no one left to tell this story. He did his best to pass it on to us. And we’re responsible, you know?”

The story begins in 1933, when Kahan’s parents, Hermann Selzer and Kate Neumann, left Nazi Germany separately for Italy, where Jews were allowed to study medicine. Hermann and Kate (who had briefly met in Berlin years before) met again in Rome and married in 1935. As Europe became increasingly dangerous for Jews, they decided to leave the continent. Most Jews migrated to British-controlled Palestine, but Kahan’s parents made their decision of where to go on a whim. At a dinner party in Rome, an Italian monsignor suggested that they move to Lahore, Pakistan, which was then still part of British India and a city that had an exotic reputation as a crossroads for travelers and traders.

“He said to them: ‘Why are you thinking of going to Palestine?’” Kahan said. “‘You’re young, you’re cosmopolitan, you have medical degrees; in India they need European doctors. Go to India.’”

It turned out to be a great decision — at least for a while. Kahan said that her parents were graciously welcomed in Lahore. They set up a successful medical practice, and her father became part of the British elite class. Lahore was a worldly city with a vibrant international culture.

“Lahore was a very special place because it was at the crossroads of a lot of trade from the East going to Iran and Turkey,” Kahan said, who was born there in 1939. “So people came through and the whole place became a room for travelers.”

That didn’t mean that there were a lot of Jews in Lahore. In the 40s, around 2,000 Jews lived in Pakistan, and most of them were settled in the port city of Karachi.

Kahan’s family lived a largely secular life. For Passover, Kahan recalls eating chapati (more commonly called roti), the unleavened flatbread found throughout India and Pakistan, without really knowing why. The annual sign of Yom Kippur was her father’s fast, which gave him a headache each year.

“It’s kind of difficult to be a Jew if there are no Jews around,” Kahan said.

In December 1940, in the early stages of World War II, Kahan’s family was forced by the British-Indian government to move to internment camps in Purandhar Fort, and later in Satara, in the southwest of India. This happened because the Selzers were “stateless,” and thus considered enemy aliens by the government. Poland had passed a law in 1938 that revoked citizenship from any Polish citizen who had been abroad for at least five years. The Selzers fit this description: Hermann was born in Poland, but his family had moved to Oberhausen, Germany, when he was a child. Kate was born in Germany but assumed Polish nationality when she married Hermann. They had Polish passports to travel to British India, but ceased to be citizens of Poland after the new citizenship laws took effect.

“I think there were maybe like 200 families [in the interment camp],” Kahan said. “They were classified as German Nazis, German anti-Nazis, which we were, and then Italian fascists. So the camp was kind of divided in that way, and we were lopped in with the German anti-Nazis, who were mainly missionaries.”

In the internment camp, the family had a house and lived a relatively normal life under supervision of local officials for five years. Nevertheless, the Selzers had to abandon their medical practice and move away from Lahore. Most interned families faced financial hardships. Their relations to the government and those around them inevitably changed.

In the internment camp, Hermann Selzer began to write down his experiences. He continued to write until he had a stroke, a few years before his death in 2007. Many of his writings, in addition to a collection of his letters, legal documents, and photographs from the 40s through the 60s are now archived on microfilm at the Leo Baeck Institute, a research library of German-Jewish history housed in the Center for Jewish History in New York. Selzer never published any of his work.

“He was a very disciplined man,” Kahan said of her father. “And I bought him a typewriter. He sat writing every morning and then I bought him an electronic typewriter, and he wore it out so I bought him another one.”

After the war ended, the Selzers moved back to Lahore and restarted their practice. By the Six Day War in 1967, relations between Jews and Muslims had soured (Pakistan is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world). By 1971, the atmosphere had gotten so tense that the Selzers decided to move to Israel. Kahan said that her parents wanted to spend their entire life in Pakistan, and dreamt of dispensing free medical care to people throughout the Middle East after they retired.

“But being Jewish was no longer being Jewish, it was being Zionist,” Kahan said. “And that was the problem.”

In Israel, Hermann worked part-time at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and kept writing. By this time, in a testament to the international turmoil they lived through, the Selzers had accumulated four passports: They had retained their Polish passports, earned Pakistani passports, were given German passports after the war (as a recognition of suffering, Kahan explained), and obtained Israeli passports upon settling in Jerusalem.

Decades later, Kahan went through her father’s letters and documents and wrote two unpublished memoirs — “A House in Lahore” and “An Untidy Life” — about her childhood; both were subtitled “Growing Up Jewish in Pakistan.”

The title of her new presentation, “The Other Pakistan,” refers to the seemingly unexpected hospitality and warmth that she has repeatedly experienced as a Jew in a predominantly Muslim country. (Today, at most 800 Jews live there.)

“Pakistan is obviously a really horrible country, with everything bad from Taliban to whatever you want to say,” Kahan said. “But the point is for me is that the other Pakistan is this hospitable place.”

Despite having gone to boarding schools in England and living in various other countries throughout her adult life — not to mention being forced to live in an interment camp as a child — Pakistan is still close to Kahan’s heart. She explained that she has been graciously welcomed back into the Pakistani community every time she has visited.

“I feel because I was born there that in a very profound way it’s my home,” she said. “Even though I’m not of it, I’m from there.”

This Article was originally posted here

The Waters of Lahore by Kamal Azfar (A Review)

Review by Iqbal Geoffrey

Dear Kamal Azfar

19252_the-waters-of-lahore-01Reading your book: THE WATERS OF LAHORE has imparted great pleasure and furnished enlightening information; therefore, this note is a symbol and a gift  from my  genuine appreciation while hoping  that you might  arrange its Urdu version  published as a subsidized edition. You may consider adding a separate chapter succinctly describing bluntly in your honest-to-goodness, straightforward style, e.g., what does the government need to do  as well as the  law-abiding denizens in Pakistan (systemically dehumanized by alien or fiendlike Rule of Low and Law off Rulers, though with no signs of Rule of Law in sight) over last five thousand years (and their Sing Along With Mitch cutlery, chumcha cha cha!) in  Pakistan. Now that the Land of the Pure (and helluva halva) has become not only a failed state, but also plundered, oppressed, almost bankrupted, and a Terrorist® state. Gone with the Raiwind are the good old days and inbetweenties glimpsing  any semblance/dynamics of wisdom or micro-iota regarding  Values or Vision. The Hyperbole and intimate Manage a Trois are very-very ‘In’.

Rather remarkably ­– in between the lines — your book reads like art criticism. Moreover, no civilization has ever flourished progressively without first excelling in arts. Within the unfortunate State of Pakistan the ubiquitous coterie of nouveau riche/ deep-pocket riffraff and semi-illiterate politicians (rudderless + ruthlessly on-the-take) compounded by  rabid bureaucrats (low-ranking Machiavellis) are instead coyly dismantling what is left of Pakistan. One in PTI/ one in ML(N)/ one Independent Syndrome. Jinnah must be turning in his grave. Right now we encounter déjà vu of 1999 when forex reserves were miserably down to $400 millions, that too S.O.S-borrowed at exorbitantly high commercial rates. Please propose what needs to be done. I will, in  deeds, state of art illustrate it !!!

As your former GCL  classmate and causa honoris fan, I ought to mention two item thoughts. ZAB (a poet-of-politics deserving criticism in the Surah 26 : 226 Sense) actually was not all that ‘not-corrupt’. When Bhutto visited my Studio (or Clinic for the Sake of AesthE T H I C S) in Central  Park West (at the Mayflower) or later in Beekman Place, NYC 21 , I humbly pontificated  that bigotry must not be encouraged by anyone whatsoever, i.e.,  no one may designate/label or even subliminally  belittle any other person’s faith, nor tempt invidious exodus or determine their faith or stigmatize any school of thought. By Officially (draconically) branding the Ahmadis as ‘non-Muslims®’. He  acted disgracefully and unleashed a  palpable Pandora box mix for our vintage/ perverse (perhaps even worse) halala-smitten/happy Mullah, Moolah and Mega- Mediocrity in order to exploit and plunder. Now chickens are coming home for roasting up Shias. God mentions in the Holy Koran that on the day of Judgment He will judge everyone in accordance with his faith. So Culprits cannot escape exemplary punishment.

Moreover, Bhutto used to boast before his Sitting Ducks that he manifested two personas (euphoria of split personality, I presume); one private (seductive actresses + Invigorated Rooh-e Afzaa + surreptitious verbal  ‘marriage’ with Ravishing Husna Sheikh — where is the Bengal Beauty?? = la dolce vita a la mode at  State-with-dwindling-resources expense account), and The Other his (illusionary) public (= commercial)  personage (Roti, Kappra, Aur Makkan + phony “Liend Reforms” phantom/hype).

During 1969 (when he invited Dr. Zafar Aziz Khan and me), I asked him point-blank why await  becoming the PM to implement his promised and worthy  ‘Land’-Reforms, why not initiate and functionalize/fructify that very day since charity and all good deeds (like justice) begin with home, however, I would simultaneously join him, donate all my existing resources, I am a bit short of being a Kuwaiti Currency Billionaire, I must admit, ‘how short’ is my Tashkent $ecret) : he responded that he  had  a family to support and I retorted on the spot to his sudden surprise:  ‘But; everyone is suffering from that dis-ease’. It turned him pinkier! He become fidgety. Dr. ZAK graciously walked out on him along with me from the debilitated Falettis which was ruining itself after The Oberoi Family had to leave.

The Tashkent Secret” (another Bhutto Bluff!)  simply was that we triumphantly lost that war too.  Mein ne dekha:    also as a citizen of the global village, I felt very sorry for the Motherland, Raftarr Tez Haey – –  mugger Suffer ahissta-ahissta. The cutting-edge bottom-line is  that actually, soon after that Bhutto (albeit innocent  Yatra),  Janab A.K. Brohi,  To err is human, confided  to me  that  Bhutto  would  not win  a  single  seat  even  from  native Sindh..

Since the Dacca  (double entendre , it also means dacoiting in my Penglish) Marrowing of l971, over 300 billion dollars have been money-laundered  illicitly out to offshore havens as sacrosanct nest-eggs. Although I strongly oppose Death Penalty in present day Just Ice Pakistan, as an exception to the rule I humbly favour brutal public hangings of economic Fitna-Fasaad  caterers per the Commandment of God. Caliph Hazrat Omer, RA  condemned hypocrisy as the worst of  sins and calibrated that one who appeases in a wrong is far worse than the wrong-monger.

Our present day  role model  Prime Munster, Haji Sir Nawaz SharrrrReef’s (HonGCMG 1997 violating Art. 254) two sons have  already proudly become British citizens with Right of Abode which re-minds me the brilliant obiter dicta  that MohtrimA Meena Kumari (born in  Mitha Tiwana, District KhushAAB = Good Waters off of  the Chenab River ) lisped in the playback surroundsound of Lata Mangheshkar: Innhi loggounn ne lay liyya dupatta mera…  

Also there exists  a lucid, tell-tale  Urdu  lyric (ghazzal), ahead of its time (as is all art) narrating  requiem for  ZAB during his own lifetime, by the greatest poet of the XX century (albeit from Montgomery), Munir Niazi, RA.  I will appreciate your corrective views about  the aforesaid aspects of some burning issues which are of burgeoning incendiary concern to the common, law-abiding citizenry of Pakistan who find themselves Iraq and a hard placebo.

Anarkali: Books Bazaar

 

Photo Courtesy :  Shiraz Hassan

 

 

 

Nadeem Aslam reading from The Wasted Vigil

wasted-vigil1The Wasted Vigil is Nadeem Aslam’s third and most powerful novel yet. It follows the lives of five damaged souls dealing with the repercussions of the “War on Terror” in later day Afghanistan. A work of deepest humanity, “The Wasted Vigil” offers a timely portrait of this region, of love during war and conflict. At once angry, unflinching and memorably beautiful, it marks Nadeem Aslam as a world writer of major importance.

Nadeem shall be reading from ‘The Wasted Vigil’ and answering your questions at the Sayeed Saigol Auditorium on 10th April between 5-7pm.

This event is being arranged by The Last Word in collaboration with the LUMS Literary Society.

The history of Basant

Manzoor has authored a great post on Basant. We are cross posting it here – given that many Lahore Nama visitors are talking of Basant and expressing their great enthusiasm for the festival.  Raza Rumi (ed)

Basant is a centuries old cultural tradition of Punjab. Over the years, it gained an element of controversy as the fundamentalism wiped the norms of tolerance and co-existence in our society. Disregard of law and for the lives of fellow citizens turned it into a bloody sport.

Recently I came across a book “URS AUR MELAY” by Aman Ullah Khan Arman, published by Kitab Manzil Lahore in 1959. I am reproducing the chapter on Basant (p.276-277) here: “Basant (a Sanskrit word for spring) is a seasonal festival of Indo-Pak sub-continent and it has no religious bearings. Basant is the herald of the spring and celebrated in winter (Magh) on the fourth or fifth day of lunar month. This is the reason why it is called Basant Panchami. Basant season starts on this day, therefore, Basant is regarded the herald of spring, wheat grows, and mustard blossoms in this season. (Old Aryan tradition divides a year into six seasons each having two months. Mustard blossom that is yellow in color is considered the color of spring and accordingly yellow outfits were worn).  Continue reading

The Life’s Too Short short story Prize

Entries are invited to the first ever Life’s Too Short short story prize.

For more information, go to http://www.lifestooshort.pk/

Entries will be judged by a panel consisting of Muhammad Hanif, Kamila Shamsie and Daniyal Mueenuddin.

First prize is Rs. 100,000/-, Second prize is Rs. 20,000/- and Third Prize is Rs. 10,000/-.

The ten best short stories selected by the judges will be published as an anthology.

Participants must be of Pakistani origin. Stories should not exceed 5,000 words. Entries must be in English. Poetry will not be accepted.

Entries must be mailed to entry@lifestooshort.pk

Submission deadline is 30 June 2009.

Old Lahore, old books

Posted by Raza Rumi

Darwaish

I grew up in Androon Shehr (old city) of Lahore in the 1980s.

Most of my childhood and teenage years were spent in my Nana Jan’s house located at Lodge Road in Old Anarkali. It was an old but large house, left by a Hindu migrant family, located inside a narrow street of hundreds of years old neighborhood with Jain Mandir (when it existed) just two blocks away and Mall Road merely a ten minutes walk.

Nana used to tell us that Gayan Chand, the head of that Hindu family, spent three long years building this house and it was a strange twist of fate that finally when it got completed in 1947 and he was just about to move in, partition took place. Not only did he lose his newly built house but he also had to flee the city where his forefathers had lived for centuries. Just like Nana Continue reading

Amritsar to Lahore: A Journey Across the India-Pakistan Border

This book says

“During the course of my journey, many of the people I met in Pakistan and India expressed a curious combination of affection, indifference, and animosity toward their neighbors across the border. . . . The border divides them but it is also a seam that joins the fabric of their cultures.” Continue reading

East-West exchanges: Lahoris interact with a visiting author

Lahore Nama hosted a small discussion group Lorraine Adams yesterday. Miranda Husain, freelance journalist and a writer  – also an active participant at the event – reports below:

We are happy to humbly term our discussion group with Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Loraine Adams a resounding success, with most of those gathered proudly showcasing their verbal animation skills!

Ms Adams may now be known to many as a critically acclaimed novelist. However, her extensive career in political and investigative journalism means that behind the creativity lies a woman with a solid understanding of US foreign policy, especially within the global war on terror context. Significantly, she believes that despite the recent regime change in Washington, Pakistan remains immensely vulnerable in the face of the world’s largest military machine.

And this really sums up the reason behind Ms Adams’ visit.

Viewing fiction as the best means of engaging the reader’s imagination – while continuously reiterating a shared humanity – Ms Adams has deliberately chosen to set her next novel in modern day Lahore. Thus she aims to use the reader-character relationship as a vehicle to debunk the many false or distorted stereotypes about this country and its people. Such efforts must not only be welcomed, but be seen for what they are: Ms Adams’ personal contribution to the discourse on Pakistan and its position on the world stage at this critical political juncture.

Refreshingly, Ms Adams is not bashful when it comes to recognising that she, as an American and also as a Pulitzer Prize winner, is taken seriously when engaging in such dialogue. Equally refreshingly, this does not stop her from trying to seek out the entire octave range of the Pakistani voice. For she does not believe in speaking for people, but in listening to them.

This is why she asked those gathered to fill in any gaps in her research approach. Thus the discussion leapt from the real or imagined Western media bias against Pakistan to insistent requests that she visit Old Lahore. Also touched upon were issues of class divisions at the national and provincial levels based, among other things, on language. However, the recurring theme appeared to be the heterogeneous nature of Pakistan and its multiple identities, even though these were, admittedly, restricted to the Muslim realm, with no real mention of minority group identities.

Nevertheless, the discussion’s fundamental success was this: what began as a Western-Eastern exchange of perspectives transformed into an exchange of ideas on a human level. And such exchanges must never be underestimated.

*****

Lahore Nama would like to thank Ayesha Nasir for the geneorus hospitality and a great venue for this event.

Images above are from here and here

Lahore in the “Naive & Abroad” Series

Book Reviews: The “Naive & Abroad” Series

I’ve just finished reading some really great books. You should, too.  This being Christmastime, they would all make excellent gift ideas.

He really looks like this in real life, too.

He really looks like this in real life, too.

They’re by a local author named Marcus Wilder who had this idea to write a book about his travels in Pakistan 20 years ago.  Originally conceived as notes on his travels to quiet an insistent friend, his 10 page manuscript has grown to a 200 page critique and insight you won’t find in any other book available. Written in a style reminiscent of Hemingway’s short, punchy word pictures, Marcus almost overwhelms the senses with sensory input from his descriptions of “pungent” room cleaners in Pakistan, the sheer grandeur of the Taj Mahal, or the simple pleasure of a succulent orange in the Hindu Kush.

Marcus’ manuscript, just as an outsider viewing an Islamic society in passing, has shown me more than I learned in a college-level comparative-religions course that contrasted the three faiths of Abraham (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.) Take his observations on the prophet Mohammed: that unlike the teachings of Christ or Buddha, Mohammed’s teachings do not project well into a modern, literate world. Education is the Koran’s worst enemy. (p.60)

Marcus also doesn’t mince words when analyzing the opposition to both America and Israel, as well as our basic inability to grasp the problem facing us: For them it is about killing infidels. For us it is about understanding their point of view. What twits we are. (p. 167)

And yet, as Paul Harvey likes to say, “It is -not- one world.” Marcus’ description of Lahore Pakistan made me laugh out loud: “Lahore–in Muslim Pakistan–has one of the largest, oldest, continuously operated red light districts in the world. (A bawdy editor penciled in, “La Whore.”) In some families, prostitution has been the family business for uncountable generations. No family member–male or female–is too young to serve in the family business. Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan.” (p. 40) Continue reading

Top Ten Books on Lahore

1. City of Sin and Splendour: Writings on Lahore by Bapsi Sidhwa

2. Illustrated Views of the 19th Century by F.S. Aijazuddin

3. Lahore: Portrait of a Lost City by Som Anand

4. Lahore: A Memoir by Muhammad Saeed

5. Lahore: A Sentimental Journey by Pran Neville

6. Old Lahore by H.R. Goulding

7. The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan’s Pleasure District by Louise Brown

8. Amritsar to Lahore: A Journey Across the India-Pakistan Border by Stephen Alter

9. Lahore District Flora by Shiv Ram Kashyap

10. Beloved City Writings on Lahore by Bapsi Sidhwa Continue reading

New Lahore bookshop revives reading culture

By Kamila Hyat, for the Gulf News (April 28, 2008) 

Lahore:  For years, book lovers in Lahore, a city reputed for its literary history as well as its architectural inheritance, have mourned the apparent loss of the love of reading.

Many book shops have gradually vanished and in others, magazines have taken the place of more substantial tomes.

Teachers and parents have lamented the fact that in an age of television, DVDs, computer games and numerous other forms of jazzy electronic entertainment, children had turned away from books.

But, a single experimental idea has proved much of this conjecture about the relationship between Lahoris and books to be false.

The large Readings bookstore, which stocks row after row of used books, encyclopaedias and other literary material from the US, has within the two years or so of its existence become one of the most popular spots in the city. Continue reading

Lahore: the City of Sin and Splendour

Courtesty Pakistan Paindabad blog

Food Street, LahoreBapsi Sidhwa’s Lahore is a lovingly embroidered family heirloom.

[By Gaurav Sood; the author is a US based political and media analyst. He occasionally writes at Spincycle; picture by Asif Jafri]

A city hasn’t been showered with such love since Dalrymple wrote about Delhi. Bapsi Sidhwa’s edited volume on Lahore in fact far exceeds it. After all, Dalrymple was nothing but a foreigner who had only spent a few years in Delhi when he wrote the book, while Sidhwa in her endeavor is accompanied by a range of distinguished authors and intellects, only tied together in their love for Lahore.

The love for the city, its landmarks, its famed cuisine, its gourmets, its brutalizing summers, its people, its stories, and its relationships shines through on every page.

Every great city deserves an admirer and chronicler of the calibre of Bapsi Sidhwa – someone who will perspicaciously and assiduously collect stories that celebrate her beauty and look unflinchingly, yet lovingly, at her bruised soul and her warts.

The Book

The book strikes an immediate rapport that is akin to being invited to an intimate familial Punjabi gathering. I felt alternately like a kid sitting on the lap of my maternal uncle being told stories about the city, a young adult guiltily listening to the adult conversation about the brutal tales about city’s history, and an objective adult reflecting on history, and politics.

There is a warm intimacy that suffuses each of the stories in City of Sin and Splendor: Writings on Lahore. The additional element of emotional immediacy comes from stories that talk about things we South Asians have grown up with. All of it is made available ‘naturalistically’ by the craft of authors who rarely go beyond what is known. It is an important talent. For authors are always tempted by superfluous cleverness. It is the Jane Austen method of writing in some ways – writing honestly, perspicaciously, and often with great wit about what is known without flirting with the unnecessary or the arcane. It is grounded writing. The authors use words that are well worn and apt and not ones with peripatetic grandiloquent pretensions. The resulting atmosphere in the book is not stifling because of the self restraint, but educated and homely. Continue reading

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). Continue reading