The acclaimed book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin propounded that peace could be had through education. That was published in 2007, remained on the New York Times best seller list for four years, won the Kiriyama Prize, given for creating better understanding among people and nations, and then the book was drowned in a flood of controversy.

Perhaps Mortenson’s  is  a voice that can be used to showcase what this new library is doing in Darra Adam Khel, a small town near Peshawar that makes its living by trading and making weapons in Pakistan.

The Darra Adam Khel Library houses 2500 books and was built only last year.  Says the founder of the library , Shahnawaz Zeb : “Times are changing and we should change too…We need to take the guns away from our younger generation and arm them with books instead.”

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Very early on, my eight-year-old self understood that spoken words were not the same as those written. Spoken words hurt, made noise, sounded ugly, were sometimes false. Written words, when spoken aloud, sounded beautiful; even when improbable, like the antics of the ‘vanar sena’ from Ramcharitmanas recited aloud by my nani, they rang true. What makes words on paper different? Perhaps their ability to be of life, from life, while simultaneously being away from it. Maybe the reflection and thought that goes into it. I can articulate this at forty-seven. But I always knew it.

As I saw it, words, stories, poetry, writing, made up one big stew pot. You chose beautiful, sparkling words. You stirred the pot. You strung them together. They made beauty, made sense, made happiness. All the things that I thought my life lacked: grace and culture, glamour, laughter, excitement, fun, could be picked and savoured from assorted jars of words: books. Reading and writing were ideal pastimes for a lonely small-town girl like me. It let me be at once docile and dutiful; rebellious and willful. My mother and father would peep in to see me furiously scribbling or poring over a book, and feel comforted that I was a good, studious child, even if I was penning mean tirades about them or hiding yet another Agatha Christie inside my physics textbook.

Writing words cleansed me. After I wrote about what people did or said in my diary, it ceased to matter. I could smile serenely and move on.