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A love affair with Lahore

A coffee table book that offers a brief but comprehensive cultural and social history of Lahore

A love affair with Lahore

Dr Fatima Hussain is a teacher of History at Delhi University. She is author of The War that wasn’t: The Sufi and the Sultan and Perspectives; she has co-authored The Palestine Question: A historical perspective and has edited Sufism and Bhakti Movement: Contemporary Relevance and Sufism Revisited. Several of her scholarly articles have been published in journals and dailies. An upcoming book of Dr Hussain’s is titled Constructing Paradigms of Religious Conflict Resolution through the Heer Waris Shah.

She came to Lahore in 2005 and this changed her life and shattered many myths about Pakistan. Hence, it is understandable that she has written a coffee table book about the city titled Lahore: The City of Love, An account of its history, morphology and culture.

But before we discuss her book and the city itself, it is important to mention the many books that have been written on Lahore and acknowledged by Dr Hussain. These include Lahore: Its History, Architechtural Remains and Antiquities by Syed Mohammad Latif; Lahore 101 Tales of a fabled City by Abdul Majid Sheikh; City of Sin and Splendor: Writings on Lahore  by Bapsi Sidhwa; Lahore: A sentimental Journey by Pran Neville; Lahore, Portrait of a Lost City by Som Anand; Old Lahore: Reminiscences Of A Resident by H. R. Goulding; Lahore: Illustrated Views of the 19th Century by F S Aijazuddin and Tareekh-e-Lahore by Rai Bahadur Kanhaiya Lal.

If so much has been written on Lahore already, then what is special about Dr Hussain’s book. In my opinion, this book offers a brief but comprehensive history of Lahore. It contains and covers the historical, cultural and social history of Lahore. It discusses the cuisines, flora and fauna, architecture, Sufi saints, buildings, mazars, gardens, women, men of letters, film actors, artists, musicians, singers, educational institutes and tombs, etc.

The book is printed on glazed paper and contains dozens of historic and beautiful pictures of Lahore. It does attract the reader but it must also be mentioned that the price of the book is beyond the reach of common man.

The book contains so much valuable information about Lahore that a more inexpensive, paperback edition should be made available. It should also be translated and published into other languages, particularly Punjabi and Urdu so that more people can benefit from it. This commendable book is the outcome of love for Lahore by a Delhi Kuri (Dr Hussain) and her husband a Lahori Munda (Fakhar Zaman).

Lahore is a city that has touched many hearts. Harkishan Singh Surjeet, former Secretary-General of Communist Party of India, said that “Lahore was cultural Capital of united India”. Similarly, Dr Grosse Herrenthy, a German who lived in Model Town, Lahore said that “He came to Lahore because it was the Paris of East”. The great historian Romila Thapar has not forgotten her childhood years spent at Lahore.

Model Town Lahore was predominantly owned by non-Muslims and each family has his own story to tell. Professor Mridula Mukherjee’s father was a practicing lawyer at Lahore before partition and Professor Aditiya Mukherjee’s father was working at an insurance company in Lahore. Above all, the great intellectual Khushwant Singh also had fond memories of Lahore where he spent his youth. There are thousands and thousands of accounts of former residents of Lahore.

Lahore has fascinated not only intellectuals, men of letters, Sufi saints but also rulers. It has been the capital for a number of rulers. There is no doubt that before partition, Lahore was not a Muslim city. The followers of all religions have their roots here.

There is an ongoing debate about who spoiled the culture of Lahore. Those whose forefathers are from Lahore accuse the newcomers, but nobody, except Abdullah Malik, dares mention that it was the Lahoris who burnt alive other Lahoris at Shah Alam Market at the time of partition.

Perhaps that is why it’s apt that the book ends with a translation of Fakhar Zaman’s poem: “Lahore shehr Nu Kis de nazar Lag gai hai” (Whose evil eye has jinxed Lahore city — I am unable to see this city now).

Lahore: The City of Love
Author: Dr Fatima Hussain
Publisher: Sang-e-Meel Publications
Price: Rs3,000
Pages: 128

Zaman Khan

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