Having lived for some time in Lahore, I have realised that it would be ideal for me to retire in Islamabad, but I’d want to experience life in Lahore
aving your father in the forces gives you quite a run in the country. Hence, I’ve had the honour of seeing life in many cities — from the city of saints, Multan, to the land of dry fruits, Quetta, and even the sports city, Sialkot, for a brief time during my own tenure of serving in the army. But I always wondered why I hadn’t got to live in the city of gardens, Lahore. Not until six months ago.
Belonging to Islamabad, I was rather sceptical about moving to Lahore. Yet, fate found its way and my path was made for me to experience yet another city of the country. Now that I’ve been here for a while, I know what all the fuss is about.
Sure, there is a culture shock whenever you move to a new city. That’s the beauty of this diverse country. But it really hit me this past weekend when I was visiting my hometown, and driving around the ‘hip’ F-6 and F-7 sectors. It felt strange, roaming those streets again. On closer introspection, I realised that I had found Islamabad to be ‘empty’. Close to midnight, it seemed like everyone there takes the Cinderella curfew really seriously. The empty streets which were once deemed ‘peaceful’, I felt were remnants of a ghost town. It hit me then that it was Lahore that had grown on me.
I’ve always defended Islamabad throughout my life, but that night, I was myself accusing Islamabad, of being desolate. A traitor? Well, sure, it felt like I was one. This Islamabadi has been dyed in the colours of Lahore.
I wouldn’t be too harsh on myself, though. With the recent places I got to see in Lahore, it seems anyone would become accustomed to this city and all it has to offer. A dear friend of mine recently took me to the Punjab Club. I was told that the place had been set up in 1884, and that it used to be exclusive to the British and Europeans. What an elegant place it was.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, we had come to this small yet majestic place where life had suddenly gotten still. I felt the calmness I do in Islamabad, combined with the panache of Lahore. After touring the place, we had hot soup by the poolside on a slightly chilly day.
I talk about the Punjab Club because it resonates with the culture of Lahore. Gymkhana could be rivalled by Islamabad Club, but this was something that felt like an exclusive experience.
Another experience which etched Lahore into my soul was at the historical Haveli Baroodkhana. It would be disrespectful to even compare this 18th Century mansion to anything in Islamabad. Quite honestly, you can’t. The haveli today is owned by a grandson of Allama Iqbal, Mian Yousaf Salahuddin. The whole aura of the place chanted the history it has witnessed. On top of that, I was there to attend a qawwali night. The whole experience was absolutely enchanting. This Islamabadi let the clock strike 12 that night.
I wouldn’t go on to say that Islamabad has nothing to offer. That would be a plain lie. The city might be new and not host the kind of culture Lahore does, but the vibe it has is of absolute peace and calm. With mountains to trek and outdoorsy places to sit in, the capital is wonderful on its own.
Regardless, having lived for some time in Lahore, I have realised that it would be ideal for me to retire in Islamabad, but I’d want to experience life in Lahore.
The writer is based in Lahore and currently works at COLABS