Peshawar is a city which was formerly known as Qissa Khuwani (story-teller Bazar) and for flowers. The city lost its charisma as it relentlessly fought against the effects of war on terror. However, eventually, the city crawled back to restore its glory and moved towards normalcy. One of such ventures to bring Peshawar back to life is the opening of “Books and Chai”.
The initiative is the brainchild of a young ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) graduate Hassan Bashir who realised that there is no space for people to enjoy reading books and a calm workspace for professionals. The need for such a place in a city that went through ordeal of religious radicalism was not only essential but also imperative. According to a recent survey conducted by Gillani Foundation Pakistan and Gallup, 75% of Pakistanis do not read any book at all and only 9% are enthusiastic readers. Therefore, spending time in those noiseless halls, reading and getting books issued and becoming members of libraries, has become a part of an unknown culture in today’s generation.
Books and Chai has added a significant value to Peshawar. It not only honoured that idea of creating a safe space to work and read but also played an integral role in intellectual dialogue. It also helped in portraying a soft image of Peshawar as people across the nation visit it.
While talking to Voice of KP, Hassan said, “There was no place for students and professionals to enjoy their work and have the modern facilities of internet, printing or refreshment under one roof. To solve this issue, I decided to open a one-stop space where all the facilities, necessary during study and work are provided.”
He further added, “I have vastly travelled to many countries and found that there are cafés which provided workspace and books along with a cup of tea and snacks to the visitors. Keeping that image in view, I tried to implement the same idea in a city like Peshawar where there was no such place.”
Meanwhile, commenting on the decline of reading culture in Peshawar, Prof. Dr. Fakhar-ul-Islam said, “We never had a passion for books or reading, there was already animosity in our culture for books which is now increased. The relationship of affection towards books is built at home or at the educational institution, but unfortunately both lack this atmosphere.”
Further he said, “The state never promoted book reading, as now the public and municipal libraries are closed. Whereas, the western world has more technological advancement than us but still the book reading culture has not declined there.”
Hassan wants to spread the awareness about reading culture as the world is moving towards digitalisation and everything is available at one click; in such an era, the youngsters have forgotten the importance of reading books.
Peshawar gained extensive fame for its tradition of reciprocating stories over a cup of tea by merchants from different parts of the world. Keeping this idea in view and looking at the dire need to increase readership amongst the youth, Books & Chai is a café to look for.