City Libraries – Reading Room in Lyari

Karachi’s lost tradition of Reading rooms. You can perhaps count remaining few in Karachi on fingertips. Therefore I could not believe my luck when I accidentally discovered one such forgotten reading room in an obscure location in Lyari.

I find myself in Lyari and ask my friends if there are any libraries. In their teens they struggle to recall any. After little discussion they decide to take me to a library few minutes ride away from Gabol Park. We assemble on bikes and drive through narrow streets. I lose my sense of directions soon and rely on my friends’ navigation skills. Lyari is a fascinating place. We drive past many football clubs and community halls. Residents of Lyari have a strong sense of community and public spaces are integral part of social scene in Lyari. I also see a lot of people sitting out in open and reading newspaper.

After ten minutes we find ourselves in front of a small room which is locked. It looks more like a reading room than a library. My friends by now feel part of the discovery process and get euphoric. They find the caretaker in few minutes. The caretaker must be in his 70’s and been looking after the reading room and adjacent community center for decades.

He opens up the library and sunlight fills the tiny room. There is something with ancient and forgotten libraries. They smell and feel of a different era. Khuda Bux, the caretaker of the reading room also seem to belong to a different time period. He has listless eyes and resigned look which don’t reveal too much. He does not speak much and quietly organizes newspaper on main table. He tells me that reading room is still active and people gather here to read newspaper. There are not many takers for the books though. The bookshelves seem to have been locked perpetually. Reading room has basic but decent furniture. A glass partition separates Reading room from Community Center. The simple and basic Reading room has a sense of aesthetics which is terribly missing in new architectural undertakings in Karachi.

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Categories: City Libraries

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