A lot of us ignore our heritage sites, don’t we?
Lahore Fort? Lahore Zoo? Food Street? The Alhamra Arts and Performing Centre? All the classic entertainment options in Lahore have been replaced by fancier options such as cinemas, upscale restaurants, and play-lands. Or, they haven’t?
Lahore cannot be blamed for modernising at such a fast rate and trying to catch up to the far more technologically advanced world out there. However, as the old and classic entertainment options become more and more neglected, we begin to lose an integral part of our history and culture that could not possibly be regained in the future.
We spend thousands of rupees on meals in fancy restaurants, yet we ignore our city’s most famous Fort Rd ‘Food Street’ even after all the money that was poured into its renovation. While you can still find Food Street packed to the brim, with customers trying to find an empty table, its popularity has been on a slow decline with the rise in cafés and formal restaurants in uptown Lahore.
I wonder why the ‘Old Lahore’ is so neglected and in ruins. Actually, we fail to realise that we are the ones causing the problem and then refusing to own up to our mistakes.
Again, we have seen the decline of theatre and the rise in cinemas around Lahore, with more cinemas upgrading to 3D and 4K technology and refashioning mini screens to provide more options to the people. We find it easy to spend a thousand rupees (per person) or so, on a cinema ticket and the overpriced popcorn-drink combos, however we cannot find the patience to sit through a theatre play with a cheaper ticket.
When it really comes down to it, it’s not really about spending more money at one place and less at another. Perhaps, it is all about finding a balance between ignoring a particular art and completely replacing it with another.
Even with the recent rise in theatrical performances and the revival of certain aspects of theatre, the film industry has taken a head start that the theatre companies may never catch up to.
Moreover, Lahore Zoo, once a symbol of our early childhood memories, has become nothing more than a stench that we try to avoid when passing by. Rather than taking their children to enjoy the same childhood memories they did, the people (especially the moneyed elite) are replacing this outdoor activity with places like ‘Wonderland’ -- an indoor play place for children.
What little amount of fresh air and new experiences the children were gaining has been replaced by this artificial playground. Is this really what we want our children to remember when they grow older?
Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort, once major destinations of both tourists and locals, now crumble away as they are neglected and looked over. Do we really want our children to remember which restaurant in Lahore serves the best food and which cinema is the best, rather than the first true entertainment options we had?
Despite the continuing presence of the lower classes, the middle and the upper classes have completely gone off the grid in such areas. It is a rare sight to find someone more sophisticatedly dressed or speaking English more fluently, roaming the passages of Lahore Fort.
As we continue to neglect our cultural and historical landmarks, it will be no surprise that the future generations will be completely oblivious of any knowledge of them.