By fair means

May 29, 2022

The recently concluded 35th Lahore International Book Fair attracted large crowds

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A happy turnout of people at the venue. — Images: Courtesy of LIBF’s Facebook page


W

hile the May sun continued to play havoc, the only retreats available to the public could be had indoors. The 35th edition of Lahore International Book Fair, held recently at the spacious Expo Centre, sought to do just that. It attracted the book lovers who thronged the place, despite the searing heat outside, with friends and families, even alone, to soak in the magical getaway that the company of books offered them.

The fair had returned to the city after a two-year hiatus. It reminded me of the pre-Covid days when I would attend the fairs at Fortress Stadium and Model Town. My father always encouraged me to go to these events. This time he wasn’t around, but he was very much with me in spirit.

Reading is a habit best cultivated in our childhood. And it helps to have people around us who are big readers. My father was one such inspiration for me. He owned a wide collection of books he had picked from different stalls and book fairs in his lifetime.

Keeping the memories we had made with books alive, I headed out to Expo Centre, ignoring the sweltering heat. To my joy, I saw a large turnout of people who had crowded different stalls at the venue. It was sheer happiness to notice that we might still have many people among us who step out of their homes in search of books and not just to eat out or be distracted.

Book fairs that bring in the readers and also inspire ‘nonreaders’ are the need of the day.

Inside, the hall was bustling with people of all ages — the young, the elderly and the kids. The smell of sealed books travelled through the air. No book stall by any publishing house was without the visitors.

The stalls were aplenty too, ranging from Ferozsons to Sang-e-Meel Publications, Readings, Paramount Books, Centre for Peace and Spirituality, Caravan Book House, Vanguard Books, Jang Publishers et al. You could also learn about the lineup of stalls in a guidebook that had been provided at the entrance.

There were books on all possible genres to be found at the fair — religion, philosophy, pharmacy, fiction, nonfiction, DIY and self-help, biographies; even children’s books and textbooks. My first stop was at the Paramount stall which I spotted the minute I entered the hall through the security checks. I found Ladybird editions for readers of Level 1 to 6, for my nieces and nephews. I also picked The Adventures of Sindbad the Sailor, Usborne’s First illustrated English Dictionary, a collection of Aesop’s Fables (early pre-school start readers), The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde, The Magic Paintbrush (Ladybird Readers) and Danny, The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, to name a few. All these for the kids in my house. It took me close to two hours to find the right books for children.

There were books on all possible genres to be found at the fair.


The stalls were aplenty, ranging from Ferozsons to Sang-e-Meel Publications, Readings, Paramount Books, Centre for Peace and Spirituality, Caravan Book House, Vanguard Books, Jang Publishers et al. You could also learn about the lineup of stalls in a guidebook that had been provided at the entrance.

In a corner, I saw activities for children going on. On another side of the hall, there were food stalls too.

For me the stall that stood out was Babar’s Bibliotheca, famously curated by Kabir Babar. It offered rare editions of all kinds — from comics to signed books to first editions to books on science fiction, literature, philosophy, art etc. I sat down in a quiet corner and spent an hour browsing through this collection. I realised that in order to do justice to this stall, one needed to have at least a whole day at one’s disposal.

Babar’s Bibliotheca was a mini library in its own right. I left the stall, having purchased a one-of-a-kind edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass; Aravind Adiga’s Between the Assasinations; and Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. These books are otherwise hard to find.

Here, I must say a word on the worthy contribution of Zubair Saeed, the chairman of the Lahore International Book Fair (LIBF), who passed away early this year, in making sure, together with his board of trustees that includes Najam Sethi, Saleem Malik and Muhammad Faisal, in igniting the passion for books among our people. Saeed is also said to be a pioneer in introducing textbooks developed by private publishers in the public schools of the Punjab. Besides, he was the convener of the Textbook Developers Group which, in the last two decades, has introduced modern-day, interactive textbooks that are also affordable. Previously, he had served as a member of the Copyright Board of Pakistan, where he “sought to adjudicate and ensure timely and just disposal of intellectual property disputes.”

No book stall by any publishing house was without the visitors.

Book fairs that attract readers and inspire nonreaders are the need of the day. Consumption of more books means we’ll have more thinkers, intellectuals, writers and poets. The government must patronise such endeavours and help to sponsor and facilitate these.


The writer is affiliated with Columbia University School of Arts’s Digital Storytelling Lab and TED. She can be reached at mariamskchannel gmail.com



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