Thursday Dec 19, 2019
KARACHI: A roadside 'cupboard' near the metropolis' Metropole Chowrangi that had left many puzzled earlier this week has turned out to be Pakistan's first street library.
Though still a work-in-progress, the street library project is an initiative of Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Ali Shallwani, aimed to bolster reading habits. Maybe Shallwani is building the library — part of his Karachi beautification project — after being inspired by Marcus Tullius Cicero, who said: "A room without books is like a body without a soul."
Interestingly, however, not only would the street library offer books to those interested and attract avid readers from all around the city, it also features sculpted artwork of historic buildings of Pakistan's southern port city.
Speaking to Geo.tv, Shallwani said the street library would be inaugurated on December 25 — marking both Christmas and the birthday of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
The artwork includes portraits of Pakistan's founder, as well as the leaders who helped bring the country into being, and architectural masterpieces, turning a simple walk in the city's red zone into a pictorial tour of Karachi.
There is "Internet, technology, Google, and [many] spend a lot of time on the computer but a book is a book", the commissioner added. "Books will benefit youngsters a lot, and if they read, then they can achieve whatever they want in the world."
Earlier, when work had started on the library, journalist Mahim Maher had observed: "They are building a cupboard in the wall."
Another, Alia Chughtai, had said: "Before we get free cupboards on roads, can we get water in our pipelines?"
Nevertheless, while street crime runs rampant in Karachi, perhaps the city's commissioner hopes to add to the quality of its citizens' lives from a different perspective. As Jojen Reed in George R. R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons said: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies; the man who never reads lives only one."