City of sin and splendour : writings on Lahore
Edited by Bapsi Sidhwa
Some stray thoughts while reading the book…
This book on Lahore attracted me,because I wanted to read something on positive on Pakistan ,something which was not politically motivated, something which had nothing to do with economy or military equations ,something with human angle that underlines the oneness that we had years ago. What made us different over the years ? What exactly do we feel about each other ? At some level ,we are alike ,but we try our best to deny and hide the fact. They want their Islam to be in sync with the Arabs-they are trying their best to forget that they were part of inferior Hindoostan and we know it for a fact that we, as hindus,are the most superior people on the planet (Though the fact is that our God is money.)
I did not know that Bapsi Sidhwa is a female , a Parsi-Pakistani-Canadian author. I have missed reading her famous ‘Ice candy man’,though I have seen Aamir Khan’s movie( 1947-Earth). Her writing is included in the book . She has also written prologue to this book.
The prologue takes us through the modern Lahore , an interesting fact about the name Lahore : This name is derived from Loh-awar or Lov-awar….awar meaning fort. Some say that this was a city made by Lord Rama’s son Lov. ( BJP ,please note).
There are different kinds of stories and articles in the book , some are from historical perspective , some about famous personalities ,some about modern Lahore. But the most touching stories are centered around partition….stories of leaving and then returning to the same house which was occupied by their forefathers , encountering the suspicious and defensive present day occupants. One such story is narrated by Urvashi Butalia , whose youngest uncle stayed back during the partition for his father’s property. He made his mother stay back too, because the property was in her name. Years later,when Urvashi came to Lahore,she found a lonely man,who was never really accepted by the society,in spite of converting and marrying a muslim woman.He remained and died as ‘a property holder’ and never a loving father/husband. Probably the guilt in his mind stopped him from giving himself fully to these new relationships.
Khushwant Singh’s article includes memories of Amrita Shergill . A bold ,unconventional life and a mysterious death , it was as if she came to die in Lahore.
Noor jahan’s story is not actually about Lahore. But what is a city afterall ? It is formed not only the buildings and lanes but also by the people it houses. Noorjahan, popularly known as ‘Madam’ was known as Nightingale of Pakistan. Even Lata fans like me are mesmerized by her sharp,bold voice. ‘Diya jalakar aap bujhaya ‘ with its perfect dhaivat !! Love this song !! Her story with her share of love affairs is as filmy as it can be.
There is also an article about Lahore vs.Karachi ...enjoyed reading about food in Lahore ..though I am sure I will not be able to eat most of it!
I wonder if a city shapes you. Have I been shaped by Mumbai ? Perhaps... I can not dream of living anywhere else. A mere thought of migration gives me separation anxiety. In what way a city shapes you ? Daily haunts , food joints, cultural activities or just friend circles ? Perhaps you shape the city as much as it shapes you….