Kashmir Bookstagram & Must Follow Accounts of Kashmir Bookstagram

Bookstagram is basically an Instagram account dedicated to everything that says “books”- book reviews, book pictures, book discussions, book recommendations and similar “bookish” stuff. It’s a separate universe in itself. With time it has only got popular, bringing closer book lovers from different corners of the world and helping them share their love for stories and books in a cozy aesthetic virtual setting.

On bookstagram, book reviews are simpler which has brought more people into the fold of this beautiful literature world. It’s a very vibrant and dynamic space, a single click on “bookstagram hashtags” will open up a surprise door which one cannot resist exploring.

Kashmir has a very active reading culture. However, things like book clubs, book meets etcetera are almost non-existent here or have a very niche following. Bookstagram has ambitiously tried to bridge this gap by bringing together book lovers from across the valley on this virtual space.

I’ll be writing about some bookstagram accounts from Kashmir which you should follow, I’ll be talking about the ones, who mostly write book reviews. Stick around because I’ll be also writing about the ones who focus on picture aesthetics too. They are not only good at their understanding of books, but their accounts give you a peek into the culture of the valley and lifestyle from the perspective of a book reader. I spoke to a few of them.

Muhammed Nadeem

When talking of Kashmir Bookstagram, one is surely to come across the most loved book reader, Muhammed Nadeem. He’s an editor of a literary magazine and the author of the book — “I Flow Like Blood and Memory”. He started reading books when he was just 9. His bookstagram is very unique in a sense that you will find reviews of diverse books in very pleasing minimalistic visuals. The reviews are technically sound, and also written in a way that are social media friendly.
He likes to read literary fiction. He doesn’t particularly have any favorite book and has very strong reasons for that. “Books I loved 10 years ago are no longer my favorite. I no longer remember the names of the characters or the plots. What remains is a feeling, a connection the book made with you and vice versa. When you see the same book even after decades you feel a tinge in your heart like you see someone you love after a long time. If that’s what having a favorite book means, there are a lot and naming a few
won’t do any good. Reading grows with you. It changes you. At first you read for the story or the plot or just the sheer thrill of it but then you slowly realize there is more to it. Books change the nations, narratives, history and have the power to
change the future. It has to be organic. One should not always look for others favorite books but find their own. Or more precise, let the book find you. It takes time.”
, is what he said. He believes the same for favorite authors. According to Nadeem, having a bias towards certain authors constraints a reader from appreciating other good writers out there.

What’s your opinion about reading culture in Kashmir?

It is not an easy question. Lots of people can get offended. Reading culture refers to habitual and regular reading of books and information materials. Reading culture is the use of reading as a regular activity, and thus the cultivation of an attitude and the possession of skills that make reading a pleasurable, regular and constant activity.
As far as I can say, Kashmir is still in its infancy of what we might call reading
culture of a nation. I have seen Ph.D. scholars who haven’t read a single book cover to cover in their entire life. When I was doing my Master’s, I used to ask fellow students of all departments whether they have read a book cover to cover and there were 5 to 10 students among hundreds I asked who answered in affirmative. And when I asked the name of the book, the answer was usually some names of the competitive exam guides. It is the situation of students a University level.
Then we see these very students pass NET and other exams start teaching our
youth in schools and colleges. Then these teachers create more such careerist
students. It is a wheel in motion from past many decades and it is very hard to
break. That said, it is only our third generation in the Universities. I am not completely hopeless but it will take time. We can’t and shouldn’t expect for miracles. But the situation we are in from past many decades, whatever little good is happening, is nothing short of a miracle.

What in your opinion can be done to improve the reading culture in Kashmir?

Arundhati Roy wrote in one of her essays: Revolutions can, and often have, begun with reading. We shouldn’t expect authorities to do anything about it. Even if they do something, it won’t be any good for the intellectual growth of our children. The JKBOSE syllabus isn’t designed to make the students independent thinkers. There are no revolutionary texts in there.
Whatever that should be done has to come from those who know the power of
books and what changes it can bring about in an oppressed society. Reading should be inculcated from the very beginning. Researchers have proved so
many benefits of reading out load to children. It is the responsibility of parents to introduce children to the magic of storytelling as early as possible.
With the help of a few friends, we started an arts and literary magazine for this very reason alone. It is in its second year and it is painfully hard not to give up. Things are extremely difficult. The experiences are heartbreaking.

Do you think Instagram has helped you connect with fellow book readers?

Obviously. I follow a thousand of readers around the globe and as much it is an awesome community it has its flaws as well. From algorithms to sexisms, everything plays a role. It can be time consuming as well.
I am not on Facebook or twitter or any other social networking platform. I use Instagram only to keep tabs on who is reading what in the world, to keep an eye on new releases, and to meet others like me.
But the sad part is among the thousand of those I follow, I can’t find as many
Kashmiri reads I would like. The count is saddening. I created a hashtag a year ago: #KASHMIRBOOKSTAGRAM to form a virtual union of Kashmiri readers. There are 500 plus posts on this hashtag, sadly 90% are only mine.

Since Instagram is majorly a photo sharing website, does it put you in an artistic dilemma that you’ve to not just write a book review but you’ve to also click an aesthetically and visually appealing picture too?

No. I think if readers won’t come up with creative ideas to share their love for
books then something is wrong. There are no demands there to be aesthetic but there is nothing wrong with that if one can. Some people do that for the love of books and some for followers and fame. Bookstagrammars like Vivek Tejuja and Asim Qurieshi share simple pictures and their reviews are always brilliant.

Follow Nadeem by clicking here.

Aiman Khan

Perhaps one of the most complete Bookstagrammer from Kashmir, Aiman Khan is an engineering student who apart from reading books spends her time observing nature and is fascinated by people and their stories. Her feed is a glimpse not just into the world of books but Kashmir as well. Her reviews have a peculiar feel, with book pictures full of nature, her reviews are very insightful and full of interactive discussions. She started reading when she was in 7th grade. She absorbed herself in storybooks in the library of her school. She considers reading to be a journey- she’s still a passenger of this book reading journey.
Her favorite genres include very interesting ones like Magical Realism, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction and Philosophical fiction. When asked about her favorite books, she came up with an interesting answer- “this list has to include books that were so important to read, that you know, needed to be read.” Over a period of time she loved books like “Mornings in Jenin”, “A Man Called Ove”, “God Of Small Things” and “Kafka On The Shore”. Her favorite authors include Susan Abulhawa, Arundhati Roy, Haruki Murakami and Orhan Pamuk.

What’s your opinion about reading culture in Kashmir?

Well, I’d like to believe that people in Kashmir are directed towards reading in one way or another. It’s always a happy sight to witness people browsing through vast sections of books, buying books and carrying books along with them. Not only book stores, but libraries too, are offering memberships and it’s contributing greatly to the reading community. The biggest problem I believe is that academic results have always been the top most priority of schools & colleges.
This reminds me of Arundhati’s quote, “How is it possible to make people passionate about something that doesn’t really affect them?”

A strong reading foundation is something I’d love to witness here. I recall having a separate class for visiting the library but neither the students nor the teachers grasp the importance of reading. We were given the time to read but we were never told why & what we should read. In fact, many students utilized the time to do homework, gossip and have lunch.
It is clear that reading exposure isn’t the goal from the fact that teachers aren’t strict for the same. Wouldn’t it have been better, had there been someone with a good hold on book reading to guide us, to give us recommendations? There are many school and university libraries but the treasure they store is unknown to many people because reading isn’t given the attention it demands. Like other core subjects that are deemed important here, the benefits of reading are not given space in discussions. Reading is sadly confined here, using terms like “scope”, “waste of time” & what not!
Coming to another point of today’s times, I’m witnessing more writers in Kashmir than readers. This isn’t problematic. What’s problematic is that there are more writers than readers. Whoever wishes to write must read what is written, one must keep himself acquainted with the works on Kashmir & other topics he wishes to write about so as not to get lost in the world of writing books alone. Reading demands patience which isn’t something everyone is used to in today’s fast moving times. So yes, reading culture perhaps is being overshadowed by writers too who wish to write more than reading.
Talking about social media, I’ve seen people stick to one or two specific authors or to books which are doing rounds in their circle or Bookstagram or maybe out of fear of criticism which according to me isn’t a very healthy reading habit. Having comfort authors (I do have them), is perfectly good but exploring & reading diversely is a beautiful quality I’d like to imbibe myself too. And the last thing I’d like to point out is that people tend to compare reading choices here. A book more or a book less doesn’t define much.

What in your opinion can be done to improve the reading culture in Kashmir?

The seeds for tomorrow lie in today. Reading should start right from schools. It should be treated as other subjects are. With a passionate emphasis on its importance in shaping an individual & the way societies think & work etcetra, reading has to be made a part of a child’s learning. Teachers should be encouraging enough to inspire students not only to read but read better. Comfortable reading spaces in schools & colleges will also prove to be a friendly step. Recommendations should have a progress. And, by the time students reach the desired age, they can identify for themselves what it is that they need & love to read the most. And, reading workshops in schools & colleges will also create a sense of familiarity.

Do you think Instagram has helped you connect with fellow book readers?

Yes, definitely. I’ve connected to people from different states & countries. And, I’ve been able to make room for more reading choices, more opinions & growth. Reading multiple opinions about the books I’ve read exposes different layers of books which I may have skipped. Also, book suggestions have been a bonus. At the same time, I’ve been a bit skeptical on seeing a certain book gain immense praise. That, too, has made me either skip some books or or pick them. All in all, Bookstagram is a wonderful community to look upto.

Since Instagram is majorly a photo sharing website, does it put you in an artistic dilemma that you’ve to not just write a book review but you’ve to also click an aesthetically and visually appealing picture too?

I’d share my experience. When I first joined Instagram as Bookstagram, I was exposed to many beautiful profiles at a time & I didn’t know how things worked there. I totally respect the effort & hardwork people put to maintain their feeds. However, I’d my own preferences in mind. I wanted my book reviews weigh more in terms of quality of thoughts. I didn’t have much time to spare to photography ( even though I loved to create an atmosphere out of my pictures). As I continued & went to places around me, I found solace in adding a part of my homeland in my book reviews. Only because I loved to. And, when I don’t feel like, I click pictures in my home at ease.

You can follow them by clicking here.

Anika Akhter

Anika is a young bookstgrammer from Kashmir who is still in her 2nd Year pursuing Honors in English language and literature. You’ll find her feed to have serious Young Adult fiction book reviews which is very rare on Bookstagram and a bit of pretty journaling. Her Bookstagram has a perfect balance of aesthetics and literary absorbing book reviews. She started reading when she was 7. Her favorite genres and authors are very interesting as she reads Classics, Young Adult and Dystopian Fiction. Her favorite authors include Elif Shafak, Roy, Markus Zusak.

What’s your opinion about reading culture in Kashmir?

Kashmir valley has been a seat of learning since ages. Right from the very
ancient times, Kashmir was a clearing house of spiritual knowledge, a place of thinking personalities as is evident
from the ancient writings present on stone- slabs, copper plates and coins found in Kashmir. Kashmiris are proud of their literary
glories of the past. They have produced masterpieces of History, Poetry
and Philosophy. But, Kashmiri people don’t know much about reading. I mean we have great writers but only a few can quote literature and that is because we don’t read much. The idea of reading comes from appreciating literature and I don’t think we appreciate literature as much as we boast about our food or other parts of our culture.
However, I have seen newer generations people like you and me reading and appreciating literature and that’s astounding

What in your opinion can be done to improve the reading culture in Kashmir?

There are plenty of things that can be done to improve reading culture in Kashmir like starting Book Clubs, Reading Marathons, making peaceful and cozy spaces with hot beverages for people so that they can read there, organizing seminars which explains to people why reading is important and how it makes a difference.

Do you think Instagram has helped you connect with fellow book readers?

Yes, Instagram definitely helped me to connect with many bookstagramers not only from Kashmir but worldwide and it feels good to know people with whom you share common interests.

Since Instagram is majorly a photo sharing website, does it put you in an artistic dilemma that you’ve to not just write a book review but you’ve to also click an aesthetically and visually appealing picture too?

Yes, to be honest, most of the time I feel the need to post aesthetic or appealing pictures so that people stop scrolling and read my reviews or so that my feed looks pretty. I feel maybe the pictures will compel them to read the caption. But, it should not be so, one should not feel obliged to post aesthetic pictures for posting book reviews.

You can follow them by clicking here.

Hizb Nazir

A very new addition to Kashmir Bookstagram is Hizb Nazir. Her feed is mostly composed of reviews of contemporary Young Adult Fiction books. If you are a fan of Young Adult Fiction, you should definitely follow her. Apart from writing book reviews she studies Oncology, and is mostly busy with that. She even paints and writes free verse poetry. She started reading when she was 10, mostly comics and fantasy fiction. It’s her mother who introduced her to mainstream literature.
She mostly reads Classics and Romance. Her favorite books include “Little Women”, “The Book Thief”, “Forty Rules Of Love” and her favorite authors include “Jane Austen”, “John Green”, “Ceclia Ahern”, “Khaled Hosseini”.

What’s your opinion about reading culture in Kashmir?
To be perfectly honest with you, we are well aware of the fact how parents in Kashmir want their kids to score well in academics and detain them from other activities. Reading for pleasure is not a thing to them. I myself struggled a bit, but Alhamdullilah, I’m bestowed with the most understanding mother.

What in your opinion can be done to improve the reading culture in Kashmir?
We can form study groups or reading societies, which I’m myself thinking to work on someday.

Do you think Instagram has helped you connect with fellow book readers?
Yes, for a person like me, who isn’t comfortable around new people easily, my Bookstagram gave me a new way to look at things. Right now I have friends from all around the world and I’m ever so grateful.

Since Instagram is majorly a photo sharing website, does it put you in an artistic dilemma that you’ve to not just write a book review but you’ve to also click an aesthetically and visually appealing picture too?

Sometimes yes, the picture gets me stuck. But, I know someone who is good at photography and clicks pictures for me. So, in a way, it doesn’t trouble me much.

You can follow them by clicking here.

Notable Mentions

Kashmir Bookstagram also houses some bookstagramers whose aesthetics will make you go “AWW, I want this on my bookshelf cause it LOOKS amazing”. You should follow them to give your Instagram timeline a fresh bookish look and at the same time keep yourself updated with the latest books. Their book reactions will also help you decide your next read.

Nida Noor

Nida Noor is a engineering student who recently published her book “Two and a Half”. Her book pictures have a hint of beauty of Kashmir. When asked about bookstagram, she replied — “The content can be draining and toxic at times. In 2019 I decided to invest my time by creating pictures and videos which might inspire people to read. I was humbled when I received messages from young girls telling me how they loved my posts. They too wanted to start reading now.
I got to interact with so many people coming from various places. I got to know about their reading culture and did they. This place is so positive.

You can follow her by clicking here.

Diya Kaiser

One of the most followed account on Kashmir Bookstagram. Her account is a peek into a world of breathtaking book pictures and spellbinding aesthetics. You can find a diverse range of books on her feed right from old classics to contemporary young adult fiction.

You can follow her by clicking here.

cosybetweenpages

Mostly a private person, she’s found her refuge in bookstagram. Apart from reading books she does a bit of calligraphy, and watches TV Shows. She’s new to bookstagram, but her aesthetic and pretty timeline made her on great addition to bookstagram.

You can follow her by clicking here.

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