A Nation Grows When it Reads | Muhammad Omar Iftikhar

For the masses here reading is boring. This shows the collective mindset of a nation because reading requires patience; it needs the reader to stay calm while reading a book and understanding its content

A nation that cherishes the culture of reading and writing grows and progresses in leaps and bounds, for its citizens devote their time in expanding their mental horizons. Books from various genres such as religion, fiction, biographies, encyclopedias and those featuring historical accounts inform and provoke the reader’s thoughts. Book reading, if made a continuous habit, becomes part of the reader’s life and builds up the personality of the individual and the nation.

In Pakistan, unfortunately, only a few follow the habit of reading. They are either students or those who love to read in their pastime. For the masses, however, this activity is boring. This shows the collective mindset of a nation because reading requires patience; it needs the reader to stay calm while reading a book and understanding its content, and it keeps the reader away from technological gadgets to focus on the book. However, with too much happening around us in the form of electronic and digital media, reading is an art that is becoming obsolete with every passing day.

Even in the midst of this ignorance for reading, children in Pakistan in particular have the tendency to keep the art of reading alive. This can be seen during book fairs and, while casually strolling in bookstores across Karachi. Even if they read fiction, it keeps their nerve cells up and running while giving them a chance to use their imagination, perhaps the most important facet in adding value to one’s personality. Where book reading develops calmness and maturity, it also keeps the reader away from negative and destructive thoughts, something that the youth of today must refrain from so that Pakistan can become a progressive nation.

However, there is still hope in the country as far as reading is concerned for the children and adults of Pakistan will forever be indebted to the services of Ishtiaq Ahmed (late), the infamous writer and creator of the Inspector Jamshed series. His characters, stories, plots and locations did send the readers into another time. A visionary in his own league, he visualised a world closer to reality but with all the gadgets and equipment that were only a fantasy and a dream in Pakistan during the time in which he penned his stories. This was perhaps the evolution of Urdu literature in Pakistan, which remained the epitome of this industry and shall ever remain the force that keeps fiction alive here.

While talking about Urdu literature, we must understand the significance of Urdu poetry as well. Considered the founders of Urdu poetry, Allama Iqbal, Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Ghalib, Mir Dard, Jon Elia, Parveen Shakir, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib, Fahmida Riaz and others have rendered their services in promoting and developing the genre of poetry in Pakistan. However, readers can read their poetry and understand the concepts of love, life and divinity through their words. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, it is considered a backward act to read poetry as people associate the reader with the personality of the poets, who have always remained questionable for their tendency of being non-conformist in the system and society. This is not the case. Had the poets remained in line with society, they would have never developed their insights to reveal the larger questions of life.

To develop a reading culture in Pakistan, parents and teachers must take up the cause. Instead of encouraging children to spend time on smartphones, they must provide them with avenues of reading. This can be done in a number of ways. Schools can create a new period of reading in which the teachers must provide books to the students for reading or the students can bring books of their own and read them with their class fellows. During this class, teachers and students can hold discussions over the books’ content, which will be a meaningful activity. It is up to society to bring back the culture of reading in Pakistan and to fill the lives of our children, youth and adults with words, vocabulary and thoughts that will develop our society’s character and bring about positive enlightenment.

The writer is a freelance columnist

Source: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/03-Jan-2016/a-nation-grows-when-it-reads

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