There’s no better sight than seeing schoolchildren trickling into a huge hall to buy books. Yes, books. This happened on Friday morning when the 14th Karachi International Book Fair (KIBF) organised by Pakistan Publishers and Bookseller Association (PPBA) opened at Expo Centre.
Despite the fact that the formal inauguration of the event was to take place after Friday prayers, more than a decent number of schoolkids and adults were already in, looking for the books that they liked.
What does a seven-year-old like to read, by the way? The diminutive, very soft-spoken Ayesha Siddiqui of that age bracket, representing a school in North Nazimabad, said she was there to get bachon ki kitabein (books for children). But what she had already bought was an ‘English comprehension book’. And she looked pretty happy about it.
The teenaged Yahya of a school in Bahadurabad came across as a shy young man. A student of class seven, he said he wanted to get Ishtiaq Ahmed’s (detective) novels. He also expressed his desire to buy some ‘English’ books, but couldn’t specify them.
This is, certainly, a healthy sign – the young ones showing a keen interest in reading. But there’s no dearth at the fair of material for readers of all age groups. The bookstalls have been set up in three big halls of Expo Centre: 1, 2 and 3. Hall 1 has a majority of stalls where you could read religious books. For example, Qudratullah and Co and Bismillah Book House have a wide variety of books on religion.
Then there are quite a few outlets in Hall 2 that specialise in subjects such as computer science, education and literature. Speaking of literature, the stand of Hero Books has at least a couple of precious books. One of them is a limited edition of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Saare Sukhan Hamaare published in 1982 from the UK, with Faiz sahib’s signature in it. The same outlet has a two-volume book The History of Indian Mutiny by Charles Ball. It was published in 1860. Imagine, just three years after the war of independence or mutiny (depending which side of the divide you stand) happened. It could be a veritable source material for those who in their research look for Karachi’s involvement, in whatever capacity, in that war.
Hall 3 has the bigger names, as far as the local publishing industry is concerned. There are relatively bigger setups by Liberty Books and Oxford University Press (OUP) etc getting a regular flow of book lovers.
Abid Zubair, who works with the KIBF team, looked quite satisfied with the way things had begun on Friday. He’s optimistic about the 14th edition of the event because he claimed that this time around the number of exhibitors was on the higher side. While this may be true, one felt that the presence of ‘international’ exhibitors was by and large done through local stalls. For example, Hodder Education UK’s material can be found at Paramount Books’ stand. That’s understandable, as chairman PPBA Aziz Khalid said it was Christmastime in the West, one of the reasons for having its representation in the fair less visible.
The KIBF will run till Dec 25.
Originally published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2018