Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Vanishing Interest in Reading Books

Reading culture is slowly disappearing in Kashmir

Kashmiris decide not to read … and receding reading culture pushes libraries out of work

Zehra Shafi (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: The sad reality about gradual decrease in book-reading habits in the Valley may not evoke the kind of reaction it deserves from the masses but the trend, as many fear, may lead to ‘No Books’ soon.

Reading has always been a passion for some people -- be it children, youngsters or elderly. But this passion is eventually decreasing day by day in the Kashmir Valley where people seem too busy with their routine jobs that they hardly get time to read books.

Officials from the City Central Library confirm that there has been a steady decline in the reading culture.

To drive this point home, they site that in the year 2007, the total number of borrowers was 15,200 which slowly came down to 10,000 in 2008.

Talking to ‘Kashmir Images’, Deputy Director Libraries, Bashir Ahmad Khan said that the City Central library alone has a rich collection of different genres but still the response is not so good.

“At present, there are about 28,481 books available in the library including academic books, fiction, non-fiction, etc., but still people visit the library occasionally,” he regretted.

When asked about the reason, Khan said that since the inception of Internet, people have got so attracted to it that they hardly step into the libraries. He agrees that Internet being the fast information medium has proved very tempting.

“The mushrooming of Internet has affected the readership to a great extent. But there are still some people who enjoy reading books,” Khan immediately adds a rider.

He says people have their own tastes and they have love for certain books. “Despite the technology boom, the habit of this section of readership has remained more or less unaffected,” Khan adds.

Other officials including the library staff at CCL say that students who are already overburdened with academic books “don’t get extra time to read books stuffed in public libraries.”

A miniscule chunk of students, however, come in winters to borrow or read books in the libraries reading room, they said.

Booksellers also agree that there is decline in the reading culture. The owner of Gulshan Books, says, “Nowadays e-mailing and social networking is on high. People spend hours on internet browsing and chatting, and obviously this time is a drain on the chunk which otherwise would have gone into book reading.”

He said sometimes young people come to his shop asking for the books by some celebrated authors.

Zaffar Ahmad, another bookseller also agrees that the reading culture is “definitely decreasing”.

“Frequent strikes and shutdowns have also affected the readers as well as the sales of books. The sales of competition-oriented books, for instance, are worst affected due to strikes; students are not able to buy them in time (when they need them) and thus they remain untouched on our shelves.”

No comments: