Published under the title: A place like no other, The Friday Times, June 11-17, 2010
Lahore is going through a rough patch, and there is not much to be happy about. A city known to be laid back, comfortable, open to visitors and gastronomically rewarding is now becoming angrier and angrier.
A haiku on a highly recommended blog called, ‘Lahore in Haiku’ reads:
“Lahore, oh Lahore!
I need to come home to you.
You worry me, love.”
For most of us who grew up here, there is no place quite like Lahore; the lazy shady mall road, the misplaced underpasses, the billboards on Mian Mir bridge, the crazy drive to the inner city… the dinners, the kites, the canal, the food, the late nights, the love.
Of course, this image of Lahore has changed over the past few years. No more late night trips to eat ice cream, no more drives to Defence at 11 pm to buy DVDs. No more yellow and pink wedding celebrations that happily tire you out. No more running to the mosque late on Friday because you couldn’t find your slippers, no more climbing to the roof of building with a ball of string and tape to tie around your fingers…
It is natural to be averse to change. The Lahore I knew and came to love, is different from the one my parents knew. Maybe the next generation, will love Lahore as much as I do, but following the news on the television I have my doubts.
Home. For me Lahore is home, it’s where I belong. I am happy to be called a Lahori. Having many friends from Karachi, I often hear criticism of how open, cosmopolitan, fast paced, interesting Karachi is a how Lahore is small, people are interfering, and everyone over dresses. But I usually just smile and nod my head because I know there’s no place like Lahore. It’s always interested me how people compare their cities, how one has to be better than the other; you can’t compare your home to someone else’s.
Here is what a friend told me: “I don’t belong to Multan, I’ve lived in eleven cities before. But I feel alive in Multan, the spirit of the city recognises me, welcomes me. When I go to Multan, I stay alone at one of the houses, spend a day with the city, I tell my friend the next day, that I ‘just reached Multan’. So yes, we all have our ‘sense of belonging’ somewhere or the other. When people ask me where I am from, I tell them, Multan.”
And that makes perfect sense. This is the way most of us feel about the city we call home. Whichever city you are living in, were all tired of the 63 year long upheaval Pakistan has been going through. Many of us have left; many have given up and just started concentrating on work and family; many of us still long for more peace, less Taliban and safer roads. Maybe this is not impossible. Maybe.
This week I didn’t go to a glitzy fashion show, meet up with famous musicians who just happen to be my best friends, or go on a holiday to France just so I could tell the people who read my column about it. So those of you who live in Lahore, you probably had the same week I had. You saw the same news on the television, probably reconnected with your friends on Facebook, drove past a McDonalds, went to work, rolled your eyes when the electricity went for random hours during your day, and shook your head at the incidents that have happened over the past few weeks. I don’t have much to say that many of you already don’t feel. This little essay if for you. I hope your family and friends are safe, your exams are went well, that your work is not too tough, your children are well and your parents are healthy.
Someone said to me after the attack at Jinnah Hospital on May 31, “Don’t be sad. It’s not ok, but it’s not too bad.”
I believed him because here is a city that I love like no other.