Despite the overarching belief that the habit of reading books has hit rock bottom, the Urdu book fair at Kashmir University on its first of ten days tells a different tale.
Thousands of students and non-students did rounds of almost 81 stalls set up by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) in collaboration with the University of Kashmir. Organisers had announced special discounts for students ranging from 40-70% percent. However attempts to get a student discount with a valid ID card failed at multiple stalls.
Rafia Mushtaq, a student of International Computer Institute sat in a group with her friends, discussing Islam. She had come to the book fair in pursuit of Islamic books. Its true that the internet attracts us more, but books have a different feel, she said.
One of her friends siting besides her said, It is because of the graphics that the internet is so prevalent. Well, books have them too, and left to look for Alamma Iqbals Jawab-e-Shikwah.
Sameer Hussain, an M.A. student of Kashmir University stood outside a stall in a pensive mood. My friends just wont stop buying books. On asking why he came to the fair, he explained, Actually, I just came because I havent seen a book fair on such a large scale in the university before. Being one of the largest book fairs organized in Srinagar, the university has attracted a lot of diverse groups. A young boy waiting for his father held a pile of books in his hands. My favourite subject is Science. Although I go to the library only once a week during the school library period, I read Science books because I find them fascinating. Shafey is a tenth class student at Kendra Vidyalaya in Delhi.
Fayaz Ahmad, an MCA (Master in Computer Application) student said, We now have stopped buying even our prescribed course books from the stores because of availability issues. Since these books arent available easily, we are forced to order them online, which is expensive. So now we just download e-books. This phenomenon is universal to students everywhere since the advent of the internet.
Many accuse the internet of being the reason that many have stopped reading books. Apps such as Facebook and Twitter are responsible for our dying habit of reading. If we dedicated the same time that we devote on phones to books, we would be much more intellectually stimulated. There is now preference for e-books as it comes easy and cheap. However this medium will cause unnecessary strain on the eyesight of the readers in the long run.
The truth is, the prevalence and likeability of the internet lies in the fact that it is much more convenient as a medium, has access to a million books and allows one to read anywhere, in any way that they like. One doesnt even need a chair and table to read a novel on their phones.
A seventh class student of Islamic Global School, Muslimah Reyaz, passes by, having a conversation with her friend, telling her why she likes books. Upon friendly request, she agreed to repeat the list to me, Books are our best friends, they impart knowledge, they dont just improve our reading but also our speaking skills
The intellectual stimulation, the reading experience, the vocabulary and personality building all can be achieved through reading, through any medium. The magic truly lies not in the medium, but the words contained in it.