The bookshop at the unlikeliest of places. City Press Bookshop is located on the third floor of Madina Shopping Mall, famous for rejected pieces of famous designer wear. If it still does not ring the bell, think Zainab Market. This area has seen many bookshops giving way to all sorts of shops, from furniture to electronic goods but the City Press Bookshop has firm foundations. Located on third floor in midst of travel agent and import/export offices, it is not meant to attract impulse customers. People have to find their way to it. And people have good enough reasons to do so. City Press is one of the most active publishing houses in the country right now.
City Press Bookshop is the retail outlet/work space for City Press, which publishes books under umbrella of ‘Aaj ki Kitabein’. On a Saturday morning, I found only Ajmal Kamal, the man behind the Bookshop and Publishing House there. The shop assistant was on leave. I browsed through the store. Most of the collection consisted of City Press publications but there were others also. Kahin se Manto Jhank raha tha tu kahin Yousfi jagmaga raha thaa. There was a small work space behind the reception where editing is done for the publishing house.
The Karachi Walla has met many in book publishing/selling business but none has been as optimist as Ajmal Kamal, a retired banker who turned to book publishing business more than a decade ago. He denied the notion that ‘no one reads Urdu anymore’.
“There is a bulk of new readers who are the first generation to read Urdu in their respective families”, he said.
He further added that his publishing house’s stall in Gawadar book festival did very well, in fact they sold more copies there than they managed at Karachi Literature Festival.
“And look at the new writers who, through blogging are attracting more readers than the major news websites”, he said.
The conversation shifted from books to travel, of distant lands and the writers there. ‘Aaj ki Kitabein’ has done many translations. I picked up three edition of Persian short stories translated in Urdu by Ajmal Kamal himself.
Visiting a bookstore is always a therapeutic experience but meeting an optimist book seller is even more so.