In an era, when answers to all questions begin and end in Google, are there any takers for books? Baseera Rafiqi tries to find out.
Books never go out of fashion, the manager at a city bookstore tells me, as I ask if they get any customers from among the youth – a generation overwhelmed by Facebook Timeline, and grown up seeking answers to every query from Google.com.
Outside, some girls are glued to the window,looking keenly at a showcased book, I am Malala.
MsMasarat, the keeper at the bookshop greets everyone with an air of warmth, trying to put them at ease, as they scan the shelves for new arrivals.
“Almost all the genres find buyers in our shop, from comics, cookery to classics. People from every age group visit but young boys and girls are the frequent customers,” said Masarat.
To my surprise, Masarat says a lot of youngsters are taking an interest in the history of Kashmir.
“We get a lot of youngsters, asking for books on Kashmir history, they want to know and they are curious about our history, their history,” said Masarat.
The pace of the times has not apparently eroded the sheen of the books. Massarat says books remain a prime choice for gifts.
“I have seen children saving money to buy books to gift friends,” said Masarat.
Safwat Zargar, 26, a Delhi based journalist has a big library at home and a huge collection of PDF books in her laptop.
“I have more than 150 books on my bookshelf. To me, reading is as essential as food.” Zargar said, adding that she prefers classics from fiction and non-fiction including history, philosophy and political science.
For girls living in a hostel, most of the time is spent in the daily chores, but Nureen Khan,23, tries to steal some time every now and then for her favorite books.
“These days I am reading Wuthering Heights. I like the way the author has neatly pictured the scenes, added a proper amount of pain and joy, all the things are aptly placed,” Nureen said, adding that she selects her reading material carefully.
“I see things from a critical perspective, I cannot read Chetan Bhagat,” she explains.
While some read to gain knowledge or enrich their vocabulary others read to kill time. For Baasit, an engineer based in Delhi, reading is a leisurely thing meant for weekends.
“On weekends I pick up a book and let myself drown in a new world," said Baasit.
Then there are science students asking for science journals and autobiographies of famous scientists.
Umaira Hassan, 24, is doing her master’s in physics and doesn’t visit a bookstore often.
“I mostly read books on astronomy and related subjects. Stories about stars, galaxies, and astronauts interest me. Currently, I am reading Stephen Hawkins,”Hassan said.
At another city bookstore, the manager tells me that textbooks are sold in much higher numbers, as there is a large section of youth who hardly touch books beyond their curricula.
“I don’t find any benefit of reading novels, and other stuff. My focus is on my syllabus books. I don’t get enough time to read them, forget about the nonsensical stuff. I think these books are a way to distract students,” said MairahAyub, 23, a law student.
Anna Fareed,25, has never read a novel but is interested in religion. “I am interested in Islamic literature. I like to read and understand the various dimensions of our religion. Whenever I get some time, I read about our Prophet(saw)and his teachings, it is like a meditation to me,” Fareed said.
On the other hand, there are some who want to steal time from their daily schedule to read things of their interest.
Owais Bashir, 26, works in a government office and is pursuing a correspondence course in Urdu. In between, he manages to read his favourite magazine, Reader’s Digest.
“Every day from home to office, I open my Reader’s Digest copy in the bus and enjoy the short and interesting sections of the magazine," Bashir said.
To him, this is the total dose of reading he needs, "That is what I read, I don’t have time for heavy novels with too many characters and so many ups and downs”.