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Dwindling book-reading culture affecting Kashmir’s young generation

Post by on Sunday, July 25, 2021

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Abdul Rashid Bhat retired from his service in 2017 after serving for nearly 25 years in Jammu and Kashmir Bank. Bored of following a sedentary lifestyle a year after his retirement, he opened a book store. Being a bibliophile with interest in Urdu non-fiction, it turned out to be the best idea to enliven his post-retirement passive life.
While Rashid, with the new book store found a new way to keep himself busy in his newfound idle time, he suffered heavy financial crises from the shop as people rarely visited to buy books. Having invested most of his retirement money for the shop and operating at a loss for a year, Rashid was left with no choice but to change his business from books to other lucrative products.
“I started the book store thinking that it will be a means of serving the nation. I had collected the best sellers of all times of different languages including Kashmiri, Urdu and English.  I ran the shop on loss for more than a year hoping things will get better. But I suffered heavy loss and my children advised to change the business. Now I sell readymade garments and I am earning a good fortune,” Abdul Rashid said.
Rashid considers the poor reading culture in Kashmir, a major reason for the loss he suffered from his bookshop. “People don’t read here. We rarely get to see parents who encourage their children to read non-academic books.  It is said that a home without books is like a body without soul- that’s how important books are. But people still underestimate the importance of book reading,” Abdul Rashid added.
While the colossal gains of reading have long been known, the culture of book-reading hasn’t pervaded our society.  With the rapid growth of electronic technology and an increase in screen time with the advent of new social media platforms, the already austere reading habit, particular among the young is declining at an alarming rate and is being reflected at all levels of society. Lamentably, the circle of book buyers is now reducing, as are the readers. 
“Decline in reading culture is due to virtual reality which people are living, the priority of our youth is their image/ profile on social media.  They have prioritized socialization over everything. Social media has engulfed our generation and reading culture is fading like anything. It has grabbed the attention of students and diverted them from reading,” Said Roshan Darakhshan, a scholar at University of Kashmir.
While the digital revolution and ever-growing social media platforms have surely played a crucial role in the downfall of reading culture, the prevalent education system is also responsible for children having forsaken the pleasure and importance of book reading.
“I think the most vibrant societies cultivated a great deal of life with aspiring readers in them. I can see a lot is being promoted about education and reading in Kashmir. Even the largest growing industry in the valley is Education, but it seems we are losing the real esteem of education. We have in real begun to lose the ability to read. Efforts need to be made to cultivate reading culture and habits.
“I think young people are the hope to every society and they must excel with the updated literate and help in strengthening their societies. When we look at the overall picture we hardly find any events matching to promote and explore reading in the valley. I think it's the best time we begin giving coins to avid readers to improve the picture.  Youth must preserve for it,” said Suhail Mehraj, a United Nations young leader.
Reading helps in enriching intellectual abilities by providing insights into human problems, and influencing attitudes and behaviour. In the new digital world, with lots of distractions; we together must innovate to make book-reading relevant again.

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