the city we call home

January 1, 2023

What the millennials and post-millennials wish for their beloved city in 2023 ‘The city must continue to embody its historical role of nurturing all who look towards it in pursuit of peace and happiness’

Those were the days. — Photo by Rahat Dar;
Those were the days. — Photo by Rahat Dar;

Raaid Masood

Lecturer in international politics


ahore’s always been at the heart of crossroads of history. Situated in clear sight in the bustling plains of the Punjab, not cowering behind mountains or finding safety in a cushioning sea, the city has welcomed invaders, pillagers, worshippers and refuge seekers alike. Together, they have all nourished and desecrated Lahore in their own unique ways, giving the city a rich if bittersweet flavour. Nobody, though, has been able to ignore it.

A recent tour de Lahore tracing the trails of Sir Ganga Ram — the city’s legendary if still under-appreciated Hindu benefactor — on the occasion of his great-great-granddaughter’s visit to her ancestral abode underscored Lahore’s all-embracing character, and unearthed cultural gems that dot the city, but may not live in our conscious day-to-day living. If architecture is frozen music, Ganga Ram’s worksrepresent a symphony and acts of cross-generational harmony that were once at the centre of Lahore’s big heart. However, like these forgotten places, other groups in the city have also found space in Lahore’s storied lanes to breathe and flourish.

A surprise visit to a flood relief event that put a sexual minority in the spotlight exposed the underbelly of Lahore that refuses to relinquish their rightful claim to a land that has provided safety indiscriminately for ages. That an oppressed group in the city bands together to help those in distress far away is a common thread that is interwoven with the story and myth of Lahore.

The city that today serves as the smog capital of the world is being slow-poisoned to death at the hands of a tiny but vicious cabal that is out of step with Lahore’s vast population. Even so, in all the years ahead, it must continue to embody its historical role of nurturing all those who look towards it in their own pursuit of peace and happiness. From the farmers being forced out of the Ravi banks to worshippers from across the border, and from residents as temporary as touring cricket teams to those who, despite all odds, continue to call Lahore their permanent home, the formerly gated commune should keep all passages to the city, narrow and wide, open under the tall Mughal arches that greet those with aspirational hopes and big dreams who choose to head in her direction.

‘At least the children of the goat-herders and farmhands uprooted from the agricultural lands will have ample opportunities…’

Dr Asif Ali Akhtar

PhD in media, culture, and communication from New York University


iving in an ever-expanding metropolis such as Lahore, a citizen can hope for protecting the natural environment, and collectively sharing scant resources while making improvements to engender community life. There may indeed be aspirations emerging on the horizon, but the thickening clouds of smog that descend during the winter have made it difficult to look much further past one’s own shadow.

The centipedal lines of automobile traffic stretching down the boulevards likely suggest that we aren’t getting out of this jam anytime soon, while the quality of the air we breathe degrades slowly but surely by our stalling engine emissions.

At least the glitzy lines of flashy images and billboards lighting up the street make for entertaining pictures of all that is left to be desired. The marketplaces may be ordered to shutter down early to conserve energy during a time of scarcity and crisis, but at least the brightly lit billboards powered by underground generators running on fossil fuels can light up the city night, especially since the city’s halogen streetlights don’t seem to work any longer. The screens outside, and the TV screens in homes alike, are lit up by lucrative advertisements of real estate property in housing societies and apartment complexes brokered and sold by actors and supermodels, while homeless and hopeless multitudes gaze with eyes wide open. Hopefully, gated communities and housing societies will provide the deserving ones out of us the safety and security sought in an increasingly unsafe and insecure city.

The fertile agricultural soil of canal banks and riverbeds at the outskirts of the city might very well be turned into barren concrete blocks adorned with dying palm trees of fantastical Arabian nights. At least the children of the goat-herders and farmhands uprooted from the agricultural lands will have ample opportunities at education and employment, so they won’t become ill disposed to more lucrative professions to afford to drive an automobile and live in a bungalow like the rest of us.

‘Lahore deserves to have the best tourism plans’

Tania Qureshi

In-charge of media, marketing and tourism at the Walled City of Lahore Authority


must say there is no city like Lahore. Its culture, aroma, people, vibrancy… all its colours are unmatched. In fact, I believe Lahoris are lucky to be born in this city of love.

I am a Lahori by birth. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of changes happen on the cityscape, but this magnetic city holds everyone in its arms and welcomes people wholeheartedly. Almost 15 years ago, I joined the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA), when it was a small project. Since then we’ve been striving to restore the beauty of the city which was lost underneath the dust of time. We’ve been working on the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the age-old Walled City of Lahore, which is a world of its own within the greater Lahore, so to say. We have so far restored the areas inside Delhi Gate and, as the sun of the new year dawns, we hope to embark upon the restoration of Bhati Gate area too.

A number of monuments have been restored in Lahore Fort, and I’d request all our readers and followers to come and visit the Fort now, see the rehabilitation and also give us their precious feedback.

Having a rich history, Lahore deserves to have the best tourism plans. For the same, the WCLA recently launched several guided tours such as History By Night, Bhati Meets Taxali, Yatra, Roshan Gallian Lahore Ki, and WekhAndroon Lahore. These tours provide the visitors with a chance to know the city better.

‘I wish we again become the city that hosts Basant the best’

Hamza Imam

Ad film director


love Lahore only after 2am, when the roads are largely empty. That’s the only time I get to see the beauty of this city.

You can enjoy the drive on Gulberg’s main boulevard passing by the lovely food hotspot — that is, Mall 1; then crossing the iconic McDonalds to join the Jail Road, and as soon as you hit the bend you admire the tall buildings on either side and you really think to yourself that wow, I really live in a beautiful city. But in daytime you actually hate it — majorly, because of the traffic. You are too busy saving your vehicle from the reckless, and you really start to wonder who issued licences to them in the first place. I’m sure there’s a special place in hell for the drivers who shamelessly enter the wrong lanes.

Going to share a fantasy that I should be made IG (or whatever is the highest post in traffic police) for a month. I have strategies I’d like to implement and see how it goes. I’ll share one: make a citizens’ portal; an app, if you like; and give it to the public, wherever they see a wrong parking, or someone driving rash, or crisscrossing through the lanes on the road, make a video of it and post it on the portal anonymously, and you send an e-challan to the violators. Deploy traffic wardens in civil dresses and private cars, and have them patrol the city for one month at least, and create the terror. I kid you not; violators would be terrified or at least think twice before overlooking any traffic laws.

Secondly, I wish we have trams running through the main boulevard and Jail Road; and underground metro trains that connect the entire city.

And last but not the least, I wish we again become the city that hosts Basant the best.

‘We are bringing festivals back to the city’

Shoaib Iqbal

Director, The Little Art


ovid-19 posed unprecedented challenges to us since our core work was festivals and events. All of that was cancelled. Moreover, it takes a year to produce a high-quality international festival if the resources and the team are in place. We lost both of these. 2022 was the year for us to pick up from the ashes, literally and start building again.

2023 looks promising to me overall but particularly for The Little Art. We recently launched a physical space in Model Town called Aangun— Centre for Learning and Culture. We hope totake its programming forward in the new year and present more cultural and arts events for children and the youth at the venue. We are also going to invite a number of organisations working in the city to co-produce and co-host.

Besides, in 2023, we are bringing festivals back to the city. We hope to have the annual Lahore International Children’s Film Festival, Tamasha Festival of Performing Arts and ArtBeat. Our festivals have a sizeable audience and we believe that Lahore will welcome us back.

My hope in 2023 for Lahore is that there is a deeper realisation of the environmental challenges we have at hand. We need clean air to breathe, and there must be collective and sizeable efforts on the part of the government as well as the general public towards that end.

I also hope that a number of arts and culture projects and events will be happening in the new year, which will add to the cultural life and the social well-being of people in various ways.

Our children and youth need opportunities to explore their potential. My hope is that 2023 is the year when we value this and make investments and efforts in this regard. n

‘Something needs to be done before the city turns into a smoggy and noisy caricature of her past’

Ammar Aziz

Poet, filmmaker and director of SAMAAJ, a non-profit organisation using cultural mediums to defend human rights


aving lived in Lahore through my growing-up years in the 1990s till date (when I am in my early 30s), I feel like two dramatically different experiences. It’s not just because of the sounds and sights I grew up with that no longer exist — for example, our house was surrounded by old cinemas that were razed to the ground over time and replaced by residential and commercial buildings —it’s also because of the air we breathe in this beloved city of ours that’s poisonous.

Plato established an essential correlation between love and death, and in several folk literary traditions the lover seeks the beloved only to encounter his own destruction. Our love story with Lahore is no different. The city that for centuries nourished poets, painters and musicians with her motherly nectar, fragrant with freshness of gardens, is rapidly becoming unlivable. Something seems to be consistently burning here. And the smoke doesn’t seem to fade. Aajshamshaankisibuhaiyahan (Elia). And we are not merely witnessing the cremation of the city; we are all burning with it, in it.

However, there’s more to Lahore than her air. How Raymond Williams views a city as an “achieved centre of learning and light,” Lahore has undoubtedly always been that ‘achieved’ cultural capital for us. Despite all the suffocation and noise that affect us here every day, our traditional musicians continue to sing in little baithaks and poets continue to compose and recite at dhabas. The body is burning — the soul is still there, even if it’s scarred and fragmented. Something needs to be done before the city turns into a dusty, smoggy and noisy caricature of her past.

‘Silence perpetuates itself in this loud, chaotic and insuppressible city’

Amar Alam

Writer and academic


lot of the romance of Lahore can be attributed to its haphazard nature. The noise, the bustle, the many pathways to survival marking a piece of land filled to brimming with people, and yet restless for more waves of striving masses. At Shadman Chowk, where Bhagat Singh was executed, there is never a moment of silence. From Raiwind to Shahdara, it continues to subsume all surrounding towns, villages, suburbs and communities into its grasping, tentacular edges.

I drive every day from the airport to Adda Plot on the Ring Road. I take it all the way around to the end. It’s a route that’s twice as long and takes half the time because you just keep drifting on the RingRoad, tracing the parameter, pretending there could ever be one, reaching a dead end…

The smog diffuses this fake, half-border into the horizon, the haze gripping identical single-family houses as far as the eye can see, topped with identical blue water tanks. All of it is visible at the edges: the sounds of encroaching blasts, after a few years of relative peace; the everyday paranoia and desperation of more and more people fighting over fewer and fewer resources; and a heavy hand upon the flow of information, blocking access to certain types of content, arresting and threatening those who dare to speak their minds. But despite these efforts at control, there are those who fight for freedom of expression — civil society groups, journalists, and activists — working to defend the right to speak one’s truth. Yet, even within the red lines, there are those who censor themselves — artists, musicians, poets, and thinkers, to whom the city has always belonged — afraid of retribution from the powers that be.

Silence perpetuates itself in this loud, chaotic and insuppressible city, echoing in the distance, never to be heard again. 

the city we call home