rinagar is a city of knowledge. The great Sufis and religious scholars got their knowledge from the city. Right from the days of the patron saint of the city Sheikh Hamza Makhduum (RA) almost all religious scholars, jurists, doctors, engineers and intellectuals of repute got their knowledge from the city. Even during the time when the majority of the population of the valley followed Buddhism, the city was known as a great center of learning. The Fourth Buddhist Council also took place on the borders of the city which was one of the greatest academic achievements of that time and times that followed that golden period.
It is amazing that such a city does not have a bookshop where one could quench his intellectual thirst. A few bookshops we have the same stock of books that was there in their shops from last ten years. It is very hard to find books of Russian, French or German literature. Also when it comes to prominent biographies these bookshops cut a sorry figure. In some of the prominent bookshops it is hard to find a book like Maxim Gorky’s Mother, The feast of the Goat by Mario Vargos Llosa, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
Add to that almost all the bookshops sell books on their Maximum Retail Price (MRP). There is generally no discount system in place. The public libraries are a sham. Almost all of them close even before 4 p.m. till 5 p.m. every soul in the city is busy with his/her own work. The time for reading is beyond this time when the libraries are closed.
The central library is located in the oddest possible place for any library in the world. There should definitely be an award for anyone who finds it in Karan Nagar area. In the noisiest possible corner of the city it lies on the third floor of a building that is more known for wholesalers of garments, iron smiths and sellers of masonry items.
It is amazing how the big business families of Kashmir never took an initiative to open a big, spacious book shop in Srinagar. The readers continue to order books from outside the state to quench their intellectual thirst. What a pity for a city with a population almost touch two million individuals and a continuous history of two thousand years!