The Last Word: A Short Review
For the longest time, books shops in Lahore were merely bookshops, which is not a bad thing in itself. But in a city where the usual definition of entertainment seems to be limited to restaurants and cinemas, there are many other possibilities that need to be explored. Thankfully, a small independent bookshop – The Last Word – is doing exactly that.
The Last Word is not your regular bookstore. It builds the sense of community by organizing qualitative sessions on various social subjects.
Located originally in Gulberg near Hussain Chowk, and now moving to Z-Block Market Defence, the bookstore has evolved into a community space for dialogue and discussion. Back in October, when Lahore was engulfed in a toxic cloud of smog, The Last Word held a mini-conference open to the public about how dire the situation really was. The purpose was to engage citizens and encourage them to participate in reflective thought exercises and come up with solutions to environmental degradation. Aysha Raja and Rafay Alam, the two main speakers for the evening, welcomed audience members to put forth their ideas and suggestions. I must admit, though, that the composition of the crowd in attendance and the elitist nature of the conversation really put me off. But I suppose socioeconomic diversity and representation might be a lot to ask for from a place designed to cater to English-speaking bibliophiles in one of the most expensive neighborhoods of the city.
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The Last Word is not always about centering sociopolitical issues. In fact, the sort of events it hosts most frequently are of a personal nature: open mic nights for original poetry, and opportunities for people to share their stories and sing their lyrics. There is always a theme for the night. The ones I have participated in and been an audience to include those on ‘family’ and ‘nostalgia’. It is quite a tender and moving experience to share yourself with forty or fifty people and have them tell you what they felt like listening to you. But this is the sort of intimacy that this bookstore fosters, and one of the many reasons why it has a loyal client-base. Other conversations they have created space for include those on bullying and body-shaming in association with various non-profits and citizens groups in Lahore.
The store shelves some rare editions of well-known books. While some argue that The Last Word is not for those who cannot spend a lot, it is certainly a place worth visiting if you’re a collector. Not only that, you may find many books here that you can’t anywhere else in Lahore. And there is also the undeniable charm of being surrounded by the sight of colorful books and the aroma of text-filled pages that this place embodies. You can just sit there to study, work or perhaps simply contemplate life. I often leave with a lot more words to think about than the name of the place suggests.