My recent experience of visiting old Lahore
wo years ago, I wrote about a sense of alienation and discrimination that I felt when I first moved to Lahore. However, this time around, my experience has been completely different. I’ve made some good friends who have helped me change my perception of the city — for the better.
I met Talha Shafiq and Adeel Aziz on Facebook, but I first met them in person at the Pak Tea House. They are true lovers of Lahore and boast a vast collection of rare books on history of Lahore and South Asian literature. They promised to take me on a guided tour of the old Lahore, so that I could better understand the city and its history.
Since then, I have made it a routine to visit Anarkali every Sunday and meet with my friends. We buy old books and explore different parts of the Walled City. On these visits, I can safely say that I have learned much about Lahore and its past. The buildings in androon Lahore tell the story of the horrors of Partition and the communal violence that erupted as a consequence of it. But, old Lahore is also a marvel of diverse architecture, which reflects the aesthetic sense of the owners of these amazing buildings.
Exploring old Lahore has not only introduced me to historical and architectural wonders but also to the amazing people who live in the city. I was astounded by the hospitality, warmth and love that I received from the people. On a cold foggy afternoon in December, my friends and I were exploring the Anarkali Bazaar when we stumbled upon the Bansi Raj Mandir, mysteriously tucked behind the houses, near the tomb of Qutbuddin Aibak. There, we were greeted by a kind lady, a widow, who allowed us to tour the place.
Exploring old Lahore has not only introduced me to historical and architectural wonders but also to the amazing people who live in the city. I was astounded by the hospitality, warmth and love that I received from the people.
We received a similarly warm welcome when we were looking to explore the Nihal Chand Mandir inside the Lohari Gate, a few weeks later. The temple was occupied by a family of people who lived in narrow rooms. But they were glad to have us. They not only welcomed us but also offered us tea, and then requested us to stay back for lunch.
Wherever I went in the old Lahore, I found the people to be very welcoming and friendly. Such nice people living among ancient and old streets makes this city worth a visit, especially for the history lovers.
My recent experience of visiting old Lahore has shown me that the city is diverse and complex, and that the people living outside the Walled City are mostly settlers who came in from other parts of the country and do not really represent the soul and spirit of Lahore.
I intend to write a lot more about Lahore, its amazing places that I discovered in the old city and which aren’t just rich in history but also in the warmth and hospitality of the people who inhabit them. Lahore is a city that has so much to offer, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to explore it and discover its hidden gems.
The writer is a graphic designer and a progressive activist who writes about environment, politics and culture. He can be reached at ehteysham7yahoo.com