The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has turned into a humanitarian disaster with millions of Afghan nationals trying to flee their country. Many Indians, like the rest of the world, are deeply pained by the visuals and news reports streaming from this warzone, and are monitoring the situation closely; evident, from the sharp increase in sales of books on Afghanistan.
“The rise is almost 50 per cent. Not just factual books, even fiction on Afghanistan is getting more customers,” says Mirza Tauseef Baig of Midland Book Shop, Hauz Khas, adding everyone wants to know the truth about what Taliban is and how the countrymen view them.
In addition to books on the Afghan political crisis, The Book Shop at Jor Bagh is getting queries on books detailing fictional accounts of people’s life. “We have no books on Afghanistan, but a few people walked in asking for books on Afghanistan’s history, culture and politics,” says Manoj Arora of Om Book Shop, GIP Mall, Noida. Chandragupt Jain of Jain Book Agency, Connaught Place, has not got many queries on such books “But the one book that we have repeatedly sold over the years, and continue to do so is My Enemy’s Enemy by Avinash Paliwal.”
Even publishers are cashing in on the new-found interest in Afghanistan, and commissioning books on related topics. Writer Rajesh Talwar, a legal advisor with the UN on human rights who was once posted in Afghanistan, is penning a book for Bridging Borders. Bloomsbury has an upcoming title on the Panjshir area of Afghanistan, which is occupied by rebels, being written by UK author Mark Galeotti. “In June, we re-published The Company Quartet, a set of four books by William Dalrymple that includes his Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan,” says Kunal Jalali, Publicity Manager, Bloomsbury Publishing.
Author Aditi Chakraborty is yet to pick up a book on the subject, but has stayed abreast of the news. “I have been reading about Afghan culture and how it got impacted over the years due to the Taliban, about bilateral ties between Kabul and New Delhi. So much is available on the Internet, and even there are videos which I watch.”
Mohit Gupta of City Book Leaders (a platform where senior thought leaders and shapers review inspiring books) says he is toying with the idea of holding a book reading session around Afghanistan. “I think history students will understand that this subject is as old as 150 years, and should be viewed in a holistic socio-political way from that time,” says Gupta.
Avid readers in the city say that the topic of Afghanistan is also dominating their daily conversations. “I have read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns and And the Mountains Echoed. These have beautifully tragic yet accurate descriptions of the sociopolitical conditions of Afghanistan and their effect on the lives of innocent civilians,” says Mini Bhaskar, a resident of Loni, Ghaziabad, adding, “I notice people are amazed by the Taliban and what it has managed to accomplish in the past few weeks.” Software engineer Harsh Parmar, 22, says that he and his colleagues have had many discussions about the collapse of Afghanistan. “My friends and I keep talking about the whys and hows, life under the Talibs, and the state of women under Taliban rule,” he says.
The older generation is more worried about India’s trade ties and investment in Afghanistan. “What about India’s investment in Afghanistan? The impact on our trade relations and socio-economic cost with Afghanistan? There are a lot of questions, and even longer answers,” says Sanjay Chandran, a resident of Alaknanda, adding that he is astounded by the speed at which America withdrew and Taliban occupied the nation. “Why was the US in such a hurry? How did the Taliban take over Afghanistan without shedding much bloodshed?” Chandran asks, voicing the questions that many of us have and hope these answers unravel soon.