World Book Day and Kashmir

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 World Book Day is an event organized and celebrated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) every year on the 23rd of April to promote reading, publishing and copy right. 23RD of April coincides with the death anniversary of the doyen of literature, William Shakespeare and other celebrated writers.
Being a lover of books and copious consumer of the written word, 23rd of April is a special day for me. My tryst with books and the written word began at a very young age. I was three when my father introduced me to books –both illustrated and otherwise. Suffice it to say, I was smitten and the love affair with books has not only endured but also grown more intense with the passage of time.
Books not only enhanced my intellectual capabilities and capacity to write but also enriched me. They opened new worlds and new vistas to me. As the world globalized , time and distance shrunk and travel became easier and less expensive, I also began my tryst with the world. Books, reading and absorbing them helped me negotiate and even understand better the new worlds that had opened to me. My communication skills, ability to understand different cultures and societies and negotiate these were honed- all because of books. Academically, books helped me transition to better grades and what have you.
All these skills that I gained and acquired emanated from my passion to read. Some of these skills in business parlance may be called “soft skills”- a necessity in today’s diverse and global work place. This is the utilitarian aspect of reading books. The non utilitarian aspect is the sheer joy of reading and the expansion of imagination, intellect that accrues from reading books.
Yes, as I look around my home place, Kashmir, there’s hardly any appetite for reading. Yes, people do read but it’s more or less thrust and foisted upon them- in school, college or the sheer necessity of sitting for exams. There, alas, is no reading culture in Kashmir. This makes me sad because lack of a reading culture means deprivation, paucity and poverty- of the mind, intellect and imagination.  Given the nature of the world we live in and its gradual but inexorable drift to a ‘knowledge society and economy’, knowledge acquisition , retention on a continuous basis, will be key sources of competitive advantage which will determine the success and failure of societies and nations. Yes, this is a cliché but there is much to this cliché to repeat it.
It is about time then we introspect, individually and collectively, and pledge to make reading central to our lives. It is both a utilitarian as well as a non utilitarian requirement. Let us make this pledge on this World Book Day and throw light on ignorance- the only loser if we make book reading and the written word as a pursuit and our quotidian quest.

 

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