May 19, 2019

Bringing an end to the ‘day’ for its hypnotised dwellers


Sunset. That time of day which signals the end of proceedings. In a city as vibrant and full of haphazard activities, the sun quietly sets across Lahore’s horizon, lowering the temperature of the city considerably. With shades of darkness amongst the crimson lights streaking across the skies, the silence is broken with the call to prayer emanating from a significant number of mosques that are synonymous with the city’s heritage.

The call to prayer (Azaan) at sunset -- maghrib -- holds a special meaning that encompasses even conflicting ideologies in unison.

Out on the streets, with each passing minute, the hubub lessens in intensity, complimenting the lower amplitude levels of the maghrib azaan. But only temporarily as the city’s inhabitants take a well-deserved break in order to replenish their systems after the long, arduous fast in which they abstained from food and water, while also having to navigate underneath the unforgiving sunrays of the summer. Gradually, however, the activity starts to increase around various parts of town as people finish offering their prayers at their nearest mosques, and return to the location of their iftar hangout spots.

Amongst the more elite spots -- albeit more of an establishment now -- is Mall One situated on Main Boulevard Gulberg D1, near Liberty Chowk. While the mall itself plays host to a number of restaurants -- offering cuisines and delicacies for the satisfaction of rich consumers -- the D1 block itself has a swarming number of restaurants and cafes.

Owing to the variety of options that are present and have been rated highly in satisfying the burgeoning appetites of affluent Lahoris, the place becomes even more crowded during iftar. Each with its own iftar deal, the calls for reservation at those eateries are constant -- with waiters waltzing around, laden with trays filled to the hilt with steamy food; while at the same time apologising profusely to calm the steamy tempers of some customers whose ramzan spirits run only skin deep.

After breaking their fast, those privileged enough to be served by those who are not, should continue practising to be patient. It is, after all, the essence of fasting in the first place.

Despite these instances of apathy, the ambience around such places during iftar time is warm and spirited. Conversations flow uninterrupted as food and drinks are shared and devoured, with energy levels rising to light up the room. The light seeps out into the night as the clock strikes half past eight and the call for Isha prayers reverberates around the city. Exodus of people from household, eateries and other establishments begins as the rozaydaars flock to mosques to offer isha and taraveeh prayers.

Situated opposite a mosque located in Cavalry Cantt called, Khalid Masjid, is a park that is enclosed by a marketplace bursting with activity after taraveeh prayers. Apart from the khoka and a shawarma corner amongst other points, the main attraction of the marketplace is a cage-like structure constructed over a cemented pitch that plays host to various sports activities after iftar time -- a tradition that has become synonymous with Ramzan.

With white painted goal posts on either end of the pitch and flood lights towering above and over the cage, the Khalid Masjid marketplace becomes alive with the sounds of a tape ball hitting the sweetest spot on the bat, and travelling high up in the sky, undisturbed, into the nighttime darkness.

At the same time, a group of people are engrossed in passing around a football, zipping it amongst themselves, robustly tackling and trying to take possession of it. The spectacle is watched by a number of people, filtering in and out of the picture while others lounge around, chatting animatedly with friends and companions. Such activities continue late into the night, until a resonating siren brings a halt to all the commotion, indicating the start of sehri time.

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The conversation to pick out a spot for sehri amongst Lahoris has the tendency to become animated; owing largely to the plethora of options available. For those who prefer desi cuisine over others the options of eating out at a dhaba are never ending.

With chairs and tables spread out in front of the dhabas, the spectators are warmed up with tempting smells and sounds -- as siri paye, laal boti and Anda Tikka are cooked and parathas are flipped over a haze of smoke which seemingly flows with the synchronising sounds created by the cook’s knife on a tawa --taka tak taka tak taka tak’. Adding to this racket are the servers running around taking orders while others stay in place, randomly shouting items on the menu to the crowd.

While it may all seem like bedlam in writing, the experience in spirit is quite memorable and is a celebrated part of this city coming alive during Ramzan. And Lahore stays upbeat and full of life until the call for fajr prayer becomes the voice of the city, bringing an end to the entertainment of the city’s hypnotised dwellers. The preparation begins for the believers for another day of fasting, travelling one more time to the nearest mosque, as light begins to travel from the horizon once again.