Far from well-read
READING for pleasure — as opposed to finding out about the latest crisis of governance or administration — is far from the average Pakistani’s priority. That in the average marketplace a bookstore — if it is there at all — will be thronged with the most customers is highly unlikely. Yet people who read for pleasure and the pursuit of knowledge do exist, and a sample section of this segment has voted veteran playwright Amjad Islam Amjad as their favourite author.
A poll undertaken by a local organisation among 2,670 men and women in urban and rural areas gave respondents the names of five well-known writers of Urdu literature to pick as their favourite. Amjad Islam Amjad was voted favourite by 26 per cent of the respondents, followed by Ashfaq Ahmed and Nadeem Qasmi in a tie at 13 per cent and then Haseena Moin.
Heartening news and an honour for the authors — but there is another side to the coin. While 12 per cent out of the respondents answered ‘don’t know’, 18 out of every 100 were definite in their answer of ‘no one’. A mere one per cent had literary knowledge wide enough to name an author not on the list. The unhappy fact is that not enough people consider it important to inculcate in children and young adults a love of literature and also to help create access to literature.
Television, movies, the Internet and electronics are now the currency of childhood among those that can afford them. For many others, the increasingly pinched purse-strings of their parents and the absence of well-stocked public libraries mean that the realm of the imagination must lie unexplored. Left unaddressed, this unhappy situation will inevitably mean another generation of children who, even if educated, have little knowledge of the great world of literature.