June 8, 2019
Lahore may have a glittering new face full of glitzy shops, malls and restaurants but it is the old walled city that draws me. Once bounded by walls and guarded by twelve imposing gates, this was all of Lahore. Now, only six of the twelve gates survive but within the walls are same labyrinth of lanes. Lined with shops and houses, it hums to the sound of people shopping, chatting and going their busy way. It takes little imagination to visualize the days of yore.
I wandered aimlessly among the usual frenetic chaos of motorbikes, donkey carts and pedestrians. Stopping to eat a samosa here, a pakora there, chatting with all and sundry, I was even given a ride by a boy on his motorbike from one bazar to another. Good hearted and well-intentioned he may have been, but his skill on the bike left me questioning my sanity or lack thereof. Oncoming bikes and pedestrians in that rabbit-warren of lanes had me cringing, but I was courteously deposited with nary a scratch.
Beyond the obvious, there are hidden gems here. A friend of someone I met, Asim took time out of his busy schedule to show me the hidden face of Lahore. An old temple, likely a Hindu one, over time has morphed into an entire neighborhood. The dome is still recognizable, as are the archways and walls. But each part has become a home; the large dome and adjacent space is home to one family, up the stairs, to the next level is another’s.
Yet more have added onto the courtyard, the exterior chapel and the storerooms. Some old marble steps still bear inscriptions in Sanskrit, effaced by generations of feet. How cool is this gradual morphing? Diffident at first, they are soon eagerly opening the doors and inviting me in to see other homes. Helpfully they pointed out features that they deem worthy of photos. They are convinced I am a photographer regardless of my protests. The crème de la crème to my mind, is the jumble of meterboxes next to the few hundred-years-old door.