Hasan Saeed – Bookay Spreading the Magic of Reading
Social media gets limelight quite often for various reasons. Recently, it has mostly been for negative reasons but then you can’t blame the medium for its misuse. There are many who use it for positive things and Bookay is one such example.
BOOKAY is a closed Facebook group that facilitates the exchange of academic books and research papers. With the passage of time the forum keeps on evolving and it is not a platform where academic debate takes place as well. We caught up with Hasan Saeed, one of the admins of the group and learnt how it is subtly contributing to Pakistan’s academics.
Hasan himself is a graduate of Lahore School of Economics with and economics major and minor in social sciences. He is a self-proclaimed geek, bookworm, gamer and sports fanatic.
Bookay was formed after JD (Jahandad) and JB (Ahmad Mukaram) came up with the idea to make a group where the students of NUST and other universities across Pakistan can get easy accesses to otherwise hard to find, expensive and rarely used research papers and textbooks. From there on, Bookay launched itself into the stratosphere after members starting sharing other books and discussing them. Now Bookay is this constantly evolving organism, which is surprising us on every step of the way. Much thinking and planning has been done to run it in a fair and enjoyable manner. Even the logo (pictured above) has been well thought of and as Hasan shared
“Horses represent war history and fantasy genre, Elephants represent royalty and Indo-Pak history, the Snake/Dragon brings out the high fantasy and religious topics, Robot and Toucan depict scifi & South American history and fiction respectively.”
The group’s demographics are extremely diversified, as its users have crossed Pakistan’s boarders and spread over all continents. Likewise, the age group and professional backgrounds are pretty diversified as well. The best part is that the majority chunk of the members are active users and not only share book recommendations and reviews but also their personal writings as well which makes it more interesting.
When asked to share an interesting event associated with Bookay’s journey, Hasan shared:
“I have met so many amazing people and formed friendships that I hope will last till the end of time. Last year I went on an exchange programme to Romania where a group of Greeks made me an honorary Greek and after coming back I had the honor of befriending a Lebanese member, Nour who has Greek ancestry so we have become “cousins”. Even though we aren’t remotely related but we have a familial bond because of our love for books. I want to highlight that Bookay isn’t your normal Facebook forum, we have tried to give it a family touch, and you have a sense of belonging no matter your caste, creed, religion, color, nationality and sexuality. For us Bookay is a family.”
From a simple forum to exchange books, the forum has become a resource center for people from far flung areas of the country. The evolution of the forum does not stop here, it is also broadening the horizons of its members as they are willing to stretch out of their comfort zone and try reading genres that they have not tried before. Above all, Bookay has also become a safe haven for budding writers, especially those who previously felt shy about sharing their work. They are now sharing and getting critique that helps improving their skills. Furthermore, they are working in collaboration with an entrepreneur who will be helping them publish their work and bring it to a wider audience.
Talking about the reading culture in the country, Hasan is of the opinion that it’s on the rise, the pace is slow but it sure does exists. Given that Bookay has become an interaction platform, crossing all geographical boundaries, therefore, it is also helping breaking stereotypes about the country of its origin. In Hasan’s own words:
“When the majority of the people all over the world are asked about their perceptions of Pakistan, the first thing that comes in mind is uncouth barbarians. People who wouldn’t know a good book even if it hit them in the face, we are hoping to try and change that perception with the help of books and words, we have people all over the world interacting with members from Pakistan. These interactions have led to friendships between them which results in breaking the clichéd image of Pakistan.”
Bookay might has originated to cater to the needs of students but as we can see it has come a long way since then. The digital forum is entering the non-digital space as well in the form of monthly meetings where the members take up topics from around them for discussion and debate. Furthermore, in a recent campaign aimed at reclaiming our libraries, the forum encourages members to make these libraries the venue of their meet-ups. The forum aims to break the stereotype that reading is a dying habit in Pakistan and also help spread the love of books and reading. As George R R Martin says:
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
Interview by Hammad Anwar | Written by Fatima Arif