something about old book shops

Life is weird. We don’t even realize how many and how quickly things change around us. We pass through a road, a street everyday and everything seems to be intact and at its usual place. We don’t feel anything different for years until one day something just happens and wakes us up. We begin to look at things carefully and realize that hey wait a minute, a lot of things that we loved and knew well, they are not there anymore.

Like do you remember how many old book shops used to be there at mall road 7-8 or may be 10 years ago? Atleast 10 that I can still recall (correct me if I am wrong) but most of them don’t exist anymore. While driving around yesterday, I noticed that there are very few book shops left at mall road now. Actually the only shop I could see was Maqbool Academy in Diyal Singh Mansion and I have some wonderful memories associated with that particular book store. I can’t believe most of them have been closed down in last few years and I didn’t even notice.

There used to be a small book shop at Regal, just on the left of Shireen Mehal. I can’t remember its name but they used to have the best ever collection of children’s edition of very famous novels, not to mention The Hardy Boys and every other comic book. I still remember my father got me a pocket sized version of Charles Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ from there long long time ago. This shop not only sold old books at low, affordable prices but they had a special taste in Urdu literature. The owner of that shop introduced me to some of the finest writers of Urdu literature and I can’t thank him enough for doing that (if only I can find him now). Yes, Feroz Sons were there too but they were never in my good book atleast. First I never had so much money to spend when I was a kid and Feroz Sons were very expansive, still are I think. Second, I don’t know why but I loved old books. I guess old books smell different :). So I always ended up at my favorite shop at Regal or Maqbool Academy or hey Bible Society had a lot to offer (still rock btw).

Too bad, time has changed now. I don’t even see school kids or college students talking about buying books anymore. And I am not talking a small fortunate social class. I am referring to ordinary kids and most of them have ‘other’ important issues to think about. It seems very few people have time (not many wela’s n farigh people left?) to read poetry and fiction and oh yeah, comic too. Its good or bad and why is that so, whatever, but I don’t like it. I wish I could do something about it. I wish I could bring back the Black & White Lahore, the one I grew up in.

All this also reminded me how long it has been since I last read a nice book or had a heated debate with someone if Abdullah Hussain is a good writer or not OR if Middlemarch is the best Elliot came up with. I hate to admit but I have slowly become just like one of them and that saddens me the most. You see sometimes just a year or two change you so much that you are hardly the person you used to be. Perhaps, even a stranger to yourself and there is nothing we can do about it. So … if you believe you are in control of your life, think again my friend. It’s just your illusion.

11 Comments so far

  1. MAHBOOB (unregistered) on January 24th, 2006 @ 11:37 am

    yeah those book shops standing there on the mall for years were the best…the great part abt feroz sons was that ur parents had also gone there as children and so it was like entering a wonderland…
    there was a very small shop in anarkali…right next to singhar house, and all thos echildhood facourites (bagla aur loomrhi, bolti bili, and other great stories) were available there for five rupees each in excellent ferozsons editions.
    classic i never got to go inside but they probably just had “grown up” books.
    pity ppl stopped reading. don’t know if i’m quoting right or not but i think it was in TKMB that someone said in some connection with reading, “one doesn’t learn how to breathe.”


  2. luaces (unregistered) on January 25th, 2006 @ 10:58 pm

    I was a frequent visitor to Lahore in the last 20+ years and warmly remember a place on the corner at Liberty – I don’t remember the name but I read my first trashy fiction there, a soap opera type of book called “Kane and Abel” by jeffrey Archer. (I didnt even know the biblical reference then).
    I also recall the narrow alleys of Anar kali where people would sell old books from defunct British collections, on a rug in the mud. Still there? I bought George Orwell’s “Keep the Aspidisitra Flying” — I’ve even managed to hang onto it all this time.

    Nice reverie.


  3. Destitute Rebel (unregistered) on January 26th, 2006 @ 2:16 am

    Thats true, used book stores are dissapering from many parts of lahore, New books are very expensive, even though a hard copy is the real things people are turning to free alternatives for example i download most of my books and read them on my handheld, almost any book is available online from the classics to the latest best sellers for free so why should people spend money buying them.


  4. kami (unregistered) on January 27th, 2006 @ 2:24 pm

    Have you visited Sang-e-Meel Book shop at Lower Mall ?? Its between the shezan bakery and big total petrol pump, just before new hotel at lower mall. they have a very rich collection of books.


  5. kami (unregistered) on January 27th, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

    sorry i meant new hostel, gc not new hotel


  6. bushra (unregistered) on January 30th, 2006 @ 12:24 pm

    that was imperial book store i think and yes most of them have been closed. anyone remembers inspector jamshed or that famous monthly digest for kids and grown up kids aankh macholi? i used to love the khaas number :)


  7. MAHBOOB (unregistered) on January 30th, 2006 @ 9:48 pm

    i remember aankh macholi
    and naunihaal
    and taleem o tarbiat
    and phool
    aankh macholi had nanhay kay kaarnamay
    arguably the best urdu comic strip ever


  8. zeeshan (unregistered) on February 1st, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

    you dont’t have to buy books all the time if they are expansive. it seems to me that we still have not learned how to use libraries very well. there are lots of lots of good books in lahore’s libraries but not many to make proper use of them.


  9. sadia (unregistered) on February 18th, 2006 @ 1:21 am

    i remember jamshed series and imran series :)

    it is difficult to accept but everything has to change! rule of nature


  10. sadia (unregistered) on February 18th, 2006 @ 1:24 am

    ps: there are no book shops left after tuesdays’s mob violence


  11. Thomas (unregistered) on February 28th, 2006 @ 5:49 am

    apucaeojhet bijuqelkvaa



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