PESHAWAR: Classic poetry volumes and international fiction bestsellers are now waiting for those who visit Peshawar barbershops, as a small local initiative to promote reading has been welcomed by residents of the city that has only two public libraries.
Over 900 books have been donated since September to barbers in the capital of Khyber Pakhtukhwa province and nearby Charsadda town by Omar Azam Khan, a student in the final year of secondary school, who was inspired by a similar initiative in India which recently made the rounds in social media.
“This is a pleasant change and I am a government employee and rarely read big stuff, but after reading parts of “Forty Rules of Love,” later I bought the book and read it,” Riaz Ghafur, a government employee who regularly comes to Ghusia Hair Dresser — one of the Peshawar barbers that have so far benefitted from the book initiative — told Arab News on Saturday.
“This idea is brilliant and the rest of the community members should also bring books to (put them on) barbershop shelves,” he said.
The whole province has just 18 public libraries. According to Zahir Ullah Khan, director of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Archives and Libraries, in Peshawar only two are still operating — Main Archives and Library and Rehman Baba Complex Library.
“We have put forward the request to the government to establish at least one library in each district and later will drag the idea to the teshil/town level and at last we want to build a library in every union council,” he said.
But before the government project materializes, the civic initiative has already reached four barbershops in Peshawar and five in Charsadda.
The books are of all kinds, ranging from selected works of renowned poet Aziz Hamid Madani, through Islamic literature, biographies, popular Urdu novels such as “Raja Gidh,” to international bestsellers by authors like Paulo Coelho, Dan Brown and Dale Carnegie.
The young man behind the project says the books come from different parts of Pakistan. He said he asked his social media followers to donate literature instead of money if they wanted to support the initiative, in which also received help from his factory-owner father and social activist mother.
“A moderate amount has been given to me by my father and also mother as both of them know my objectives of spreading the book reading habit,” he said, adding that book reading is an activity that has been affected by the use cellphones for leisure.
As waiting for one’s turn at the barber’s usually takes quite some time, he believes that is when customers can utilize it to read: “In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa haircutting is time consuming and that’s why we decided to keep books in this very important place for customers.”
Ghusia Hair Dresser owner Usman Ali says he is already observing a positive change.
“Before these books, people would discuss none of their business-related things and in the time of elections it is always very hard for us to stop people on politics,” he told Arab News. “But now, after these books, about 70 percent of clients remain busy reading poetry and fiction.”