Monthly Archives: February 2021

Library? Yes or no

By Zubeida Mustafa

AT the Pakistan Learning Festival, the session on ‘Incredible Libraries’ attracted many bibliophiles. It is a paradox that in this age of ‘un-education’ in Pakistan a discourse on libraries should win a prized spot. The credit for this goes to the sponsors of the festival, the Idara-i-Taaleem-o-Agahi that has always regarded libraries as an important source of learning.

It was a great idea to showcase some extraordinary libraries that are real treasures in terms of their ingenuity and the inspiration they provide to young readers who are otherwise deprived of their basic right to education.

Study the principles that underpin the Alif Laila Bus Book Library (Lahore), the Kitab Garri, a rickshaw-library (Lahore), the Oont Library on a camel (Mand, Balochistan) and the Digi Kutubkhana in a steel trunk (Mubarak Village, Sindh). They owe their creation to innovative ideas. Their success belies the commonly held belief that big and expensive structures filled with costly books are the first prerequisite of a library. On the contrary, all you need are low-priced books in an appropriate language for the targeted readership and a librarian who loves books as much as children.

The incredible libraries identified above meet these criteria and are success stories. Also, their accessibility offers them an advantage. They are within easy reach of their readers who are not required to overcome barriers of distance to read the books they want.

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What I think when I see Alia…

By Shama Askari

I look out of my bedroom window as I sip my morning tea. I can see two little children playing together happily.  I have already penned the three-year old’s thoughts on his school. Here is my attempt at reading a five-year old’s mind, who speaks in Seraiki.

It’s going to be a challenge, to say the least. The language barrier is scaled effortlessly by the little boy who speaks only in English. But I cannot say the same about myself though I can speak Urdu fluently.

The thought process of this little girl is complex, as she is my neighbour’s (who happens to be a relative) cook’s daughter. This four-year-old was taken away by her father to their village when her mother divorced him. She was returned to the mother after a year, after a hefty amount was given as ransom, I don’t know what else to call it. A traumatic event such as this will cause separation anxiety. With this in mind I observe the little girl.

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Sound of books

By Zubeida Mustafa

“MUQABILA, aur woh bhi shaan-o-shaukat ka”(competition — that too of ostentation). “Zehniyat is tarah nahin badalti jab tak mahaul nahin badalta”(the mindset does not change until the environment changes). “Tumharay paas bangla nahin, nokar nahin, par tum zaat kay kitnay achchay ho. Sharif ho”(You do not have a house, or a servant. Yet how decent you are by temperament. How good you are.)

These are snatches of conversation from Hajra Masroor’s short story Standard. Through its protagonist, Begum Riaz, the author astutely comments on Pakistan’s society and its culture of ostentation. The story was written more than 60 years ago but remains relevant.

One of the front-ranking Progressive writers of her day and a feminist, Hajra wrote and spoke fearlessly and enjoyed much respect in literary circles.

It was a fascinating experience revisiting Hajra Apa. I didn’t read Standard, I listened to it. It was the 52nd episode in Zambeelnama, a dramatic reading series. It had a powerful impact on me as the medium of the sound enhanced its effect bringing back old memories of a woman I knew so well — friendly but with a mind of her own.

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Thoughts of a three-year-old

By Shama Askari

A BLUE sky, big birds going round and round in circles. A butterfly, a scary spider. The wind rustling in the leaves, Beautiful flowers, some don’t smell nice. The sun on my face. And lots and lots of sand, that is my construction site. I can dig for hours…I saw a little ant carrying a tree, it was going home, he was sad because he couldn’t find his mother…

I like to play catch with Gubs, he is a dog. But he is mean and doesn’t return the ball, that makes me angry and then I don’t speak to him.

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Pros and Cons

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

WE ought not be fooled into thinking the opposition lacks direction and vacillates. Being adaptive and responsive to circumstances is different from being confused and at a loss. Not having narrow tunnel vision is not equivalent to lacking focus; nor is uncompromising rigidity always a sign of strength. Undeniably, the parties in the PDM have different agendas and outlooks, and the PPP and PML-N especially are in fierce competition. What should give everyone cause for thought is that, despite these differences, they, and other significant parties and leading figures in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, are united in regarding the incumbent federal government’s prolonged inadequacy and the PM’s fixation on excluding oppositional politicians, and repeated trespasses into provincial management with a view to extending his party’s terrain, as straining the national fabric.

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