Reading Corner with Mobeen Ansari

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Mobeen Ansari is a Pakistani photographer, painter & sculptor. He is also the author of ‘Dharkan: the Heartbeat of a Nation’ & director of the short film ‘Hellhole’.

How and when did you develop an interest in reading?  What is the importance of this habit in your life?

I developed an interest in reading when I was in fourth grade and most of the credit goes to my teachers and parents who encouraged the habit. However my relationship with reading has been an on and off one, recurring at different points of my life including more recently.

Since I am an artist, reading books is a necessity, as it helps me build imagination and create my own visual vocabulary in my photographs and paintings. It inspires me and is also the key to unlock my creative block.

When it comes to genre, which one do you prefer reading the most? Reason for this preference?

It is hard to choose between autobiographies and fiction but I think I prefer fiction because it creates and exercises imagination. The moment I read a fiction book I enter a whole different world and forget where I am. As a photographer and artist I want to capture places and people in unique ways and reading fiction helps me do that. For example, reading Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien or the Magician series by Raymond E. Feist makes me appreciate landscapes in North Pakistan differently, even old buildings and faces.

Recall an Aha moment(s) you had while reading. How has that changed your perspective to life?

There have been so many! But one such moment is when I was reading Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist. One of the chapter’s opening paragraphs described a character looking into the fire and the small brazier in his study threw a dancing pattern of lights on the walls and ceiling. It also described the crackling sound of the fire. This made me appreciate minor details even more and made me more observant. For someone who is hard of hearing like me, description of the crackling sound made me more curious and alert towards sound and in a way heightened my hearing intuition. Every time I am in front of a campfire, or heater, it makes me feel like I am the very same character I have described above.

If you were to re-write a book that you have read, which one would you? Why would you change it?

I do not want to re-write or change anything about any of the books I have read. They were written for us readers to absorb, to interpret the way we see fit and to enrich us. To change it even a little would take everything away.

Do you have an emotional bond with any specific books? What caused that bond?

I have a very emotional bond with Mirror to the Blind by Tehmina Durrani. Not only because it is a beautifully written biography on Abdul Sattar Edhi but also because it was the man himself who gave me a copy when I went to photograph him. So it felt special and always will be!

Do you keep going back to any book(s)? Why? Any book(s) you have not been able to finish? Why?

I keep returning to Edhi sb’s biography mentioned above. It is a riveting story of one of Pakistan’s greatest living personalities and provides a very personal insight into him. Most people know about him through his interviews, through recollection of other people and most of all through the amazing work he has done. But this book provides a very unique perspective as the author spent years shadowing him and listening to his experiences, which is very inspirational to read. I keep going back to this book because it is a reminder of resilience and key to self-contentment.

One book I have not been able to finish is Wuthering Heights, particularly because I started it way back in school and it took me a year to try and finish it until I gave up, because a few chapters made me fall asleep!

Who are your favourite writers? Any writer(s) you think are under rated? Your favourite Pakistani writer(s)?

My favourite writers are Raymond E. Feist, JRR Tolkien, Ayn Rand. Favourite Pakistani writers are Bapsi Sidhwa and Tehmina Durrani.

Any short stories or essays that you would like to recommend to our readers?

None come to mind as I have read very little of these.

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