Reading in Karachi

Adil Najam wonders “if Pakistani’s read?”: and links to a “fascinating article in the newspaper on the number of libraries in Pakistan”:

bq. Lahore, an ancient city of culture, now has more polo grounds than libraries. Lahore even has more offices for the chief minister (four in all) than libraries. Of course, the Chief Minister needs office space more than our children need libraries.

He hasn’t visited Karachi, where far as I know there are no public libraries at all. There is this interesting library run by the Army where you need to be a millionaire in order to join – they require you to first buy a plot of land in a army run housing scheme before borrowing books!

Lack of cities aside, Karachi is a tough city to read books. The average new book price is a 1000Rs, and while used books are much cheaper the selection is really limited. Ordering from Amazon is a hit and miss process – if you order by DHL or UPS the books always arrive, but the shipping costs are so high that it’s not worth while, and sometimes they charge duties on books. If you order by regular post, than the books get stolen sometimes, and it takes anywhere from 1 month to a year for the carton to arrive. The locally published books are also very expensive, and there just isn’t enough variety.

bq. It amazes me no end how many of my “learned” friends will actually provide expert commentary on books they have not read. They will give you elaborate critiques based simply on the title or something they overheard someone saying on TV. Indeed, many will start their critique by telling you that they have not read the book and then go on to pontificate on exactly what it is saying and why that is right or wrong…

I think he hits the nail on the head here, people here often don’t read because not only do they know everything, they know it a lot better than these random joes who have time to waste writing books.

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