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The Killid Group
Passion for booksWritten by Suhaila Weda Khamosh
Sunday, 20 November 2011 10:26
Every night a woman carrying a heavy bag on her back walks the unlit lanes of Shahr-e-Naw. The sack weighs a tonne, and the woman, her grey hair peeping out from under her chador, walks with some difficulty.
The woman's name is Dil Jan Jahanbin. She is an itinerant bookseller; the bag is filled to bursting with books. Dil Jan's customers pay for the books in instalments - a little at a time. She is the breadwinner of her family of six including her husband and five children.
In 2002 when the family returned from Pakistan, where they were refugees, Dil Jan decided she would sell books for a living. It started as a way to market her husband and daughter's publications. Her husband Mohammad Rasul Jahanbin has written 12 books. Her daughter Hamasa who is physically challenged publishes a magazine called Angeza (motivation).
As time passed she decided to expand her business to include books by other authors. The hard work has lots of rewards, she says.
Her family loves reading. She says that when she sees her children read the books she brings, her tiredness vanishes.
A typical day for Dil Jan goes something like this.
- From early morning to noon she is busy with housework, caring for her husband and disabled daughter
- In the afternoon she goes downtown to collect books for sale
- She returns home with the books
- In the evening from 6 to 10 pm she is out on the streets trying to sell the books. "Don't you want to buy books?" she asks passersby.
The work is backbreaking, she admits, but it has become a "kind of worship". She says: "Despite the fact that carrying books is really hard and my hands, shoulders and back bone feel harsh pain, selling books is a kind of worship for me. Our life depends on selling books. I sell books whether it is raining or hot."
In Pakistan, Dil Jan had earned money by cooking food and "a kind of drink" for small restaurants.
Life on the street
She thinks it is wrong for people to beg on the streets especially for children. According to her, mothers should work hard so their children do not have to find work or beg in the market places. Children who are sent out into the adult world are exposed to "moral corruption and crime", she thinks.
Dil Jahan relates a personal story. One night, she says, she attempted to sell a book to a police officer who would pass her nearly every day on a street. The officer was rude to her. He thought she was propositioning him. "The police officer thought something different about me. I was depressed, but I did not give up. I no longer went up to him when we passed each other on the street," she says. Three years later the police officer came up to Dil Jan and apologised. "He said he thought something wrong about me."
One day she may carry her own autobiography in her bag, she says optimistically. A book that would have her life's stories, she adds.