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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bookless In Srinagar

“Time was when a book hit the shelves in the capital New Delhi and would find its way to bookshops in Srinagar the very next day,” says this report by F. Ahmed for the Indo-Asian News Service. But now, “Forget about books on grammar or the finer details of the English language, even bestsellers like Harry Potter and Enid Blyton are unavailable for Kashmir's youngsters.”

The article goes on to quote bibliophiles and schoolteachers on the frustration this has caused:

"Grammar once used to be our hallmark. Educated Kashmiris would speak correct English and looking for good books on literature, fiction, history and other subjects was once an envied pastime of the literate locals. Now you can buy crockery and fancy gifts at places that used to sell books in our youth.”

“The culture of book reading is dead. All you can buy and look for in a bookstore in Kashmir now are just books prescribed in the course for various examinations.”

"I once told a student of English literature to recall Thomas Hardy's works and all he remembered was 'Return of The Native', which I later discovered was prescribed as course in his classes,"

"I remember in my school days we would stage plays based on Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' or Alexander Dumas' 'Three Musketeers'. I do not remember my daughter's school ever inviting me to see a play based on classic or modern English literature though she went to a so-called private public school here."

The article goes on to mention that even libraries in the city are less-frequented nowadays. Given the circumstances that prevail, one supposes this is understandable. But still: what a pity. What a great pity.


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