Not that difficult to ‘digest’
KARACHI: “Is the latest issue of Khawateen Digest here as yet?” an abaya-clad woman approaches a roadside news stall with the question. “Yes, of course,” says the man running the stall smiling as he hands over a copy of the digest to her from a stack in front of him. “We start getting all these queries about the latest issue of this or that digest even before the beginning of a month and looking at the demands the publishers, too, send in these monthly publications early,” says Mohammad Anwer, owner of one such news stall at the Regal bus stop. Shoa Digest, Khawateen Digest and Kiran Digest seem the most popular monthly publications here, as just about everyone there has these names on their lips. “The reason for this is their including serialised novels by well-known Urdu novelists of the likes of Humaira Ahmed, Riffat Siraj, Nighat Abdullah and Nimra Ahmed. You read the first part and then you are hooked and yearning to get to the next part,” says the newsagent.
But customers at these news stalls aren’t just women looking for their favourite digests. “We get all kinds of readers. Jasoosi Digest and Suspense Digest also have a wide and varied readership. Then there are some carrying very informative articles like the king of digests, the Reader’s Digest. Of course, it’s more costly than the Rs50 or Rs60 to Rs 100 local issues but those who want to keep their general knowledge up-to-date cannot stay away from Reader’s Digest. Among the ones demanding it are those who are preparing for the Civil Service of Pakistan competitive examinations,” he says.
Then the older, retired folk or senior citizens as well as those who are more religiously-inclined go for Roohani Digest. Meanwhile, the young enjoy the digests catering to their taste such as Naunehal, Taleem-o-Tarbiat, Zauq Shauq, Bachon ki Duniya, Bachon ka Bagh, Bachon ke Saath, etc. “Among other things, these also carry original local comic strips,” says Mohammad Sabir, another news-stand owner, who prides himself in having almost all children’s digests. “The children’s digests also carry contributions sent to them by their young readership such as letters, drawings, poems, jokes, etc. It provides a sense of achievement to the children. Then each cover carries a picture of a cute child sent to the publishers by parents. It is a nice way of keeping the readership involved,” he adds. “Women, too, aren’t after just serialised novels in digests. They also enjoy the recipes and tried-and-tested tips shared within the pages.”
Though digests have remained a popular means for entertainment among people who like to while away their free time reading, overall the sales of digests have dropped somewhat in the last 35 years. “Earlier, everyone had a favourite digest as reading was the pastime of many here. But these days, the fast life of citizens has come in the way of developing the reading habit among them. People don’t even read the newspaper, leave alone digests or magazines. They just watch the news on television or look up things on the Internet.
“But the most learned and civilised nations are those where people buy newspapers and periodicals. People on their way to work there pick up the morning paper and returning from their places of work, they pick up the evening paper. You see them reading on buses and underground trains. This is what is no longer seen here, sadly,” said another news-stall salesman, not very happy with the sales at his stall where the only customers approaching him wanted the prize bond results.