By Asha’ar Rehman
To all proud Lahoris, here is a small test of their knowledge of the city. Beginning with the old, what is the name of the road that runs between the Pipal House and the Civil Secretariat towards the Baba Ground in front of Chishtia High School before it meets its end in Krishan Nagar? Don’t try too hard. I have been travelling on the stretch — on foot, by bus and by tanga and rickshaw — all my life. I don’t remember if I was ever on the name basis with the road.
I know that nearby is the tomb of Anarkali and towards the Krishan Nagar end stands the incomplete structure belonging to the District Council, not to forget the already mentioned Pipal House, the Secretariat and of course the Punjab Printing Press. All these famous surroundings should make the road important if not famous. It must have a name also, but that is nowhere to be seen today. I asked around on Friday, but got no answers, not even from the couple of men haggling with a mango vendor off Baba Ground, not from the vendor himself.
That may be a case of oversight or lack of awareness on my part and theirs. But will someone tell me the name of the road that starts at Kalma Chowk on Ferozepur Road and takes you up to Maulana Shaukat Ali Road skirting the Jinnah Hospital? That is one busy road used by thousands of commuters every day. It passes through or by some of the more well known localities of Lahore like Garden Town, Faisal Town and Model Town. On it is situated Barkat Market that caters to the needs of so many, yet I have not seen a single shop on the stretch between Kalma Chowk and Shaukat Ali Road sporting the name of the road that brings them their customers. You may find yourself being entertained at a Garden Town branch or a Faisal Town branch, but mostly it is presumed that people already know and don’t need to be told as to which part of Lahore they happen to be occupying at a given time.
It must be reiterated that the old tradition of businesses carefully mentioning their exact location, with shop number and name of the road etc, is dead or is fast dying. Your zinger burger tastes the same wherever you go and it is unnecessary to waste your time on minor details.
Equally disturbing for those who are forever boasting of their mohallas and gallis is the tendency to use a number and not a name to recognise a street. It may give the city a more organised look, but it prevents affinity that comes with addressing a place by its name. Perhaps we have run out of names, which will explain that when we are in a mood to select a title, more often than not we settle for the same old ones. A friend who had his house in front of I am sure one of the many Jinnah parks in Lahore was not amused (or was he actually?) when some guests he was expecting the other evening landed up in Bagh-e-Jinnah, formerly Lawrence Gardens, courtesy a tradition-driven rickshawalla.
A closer look will reveal that there is actually no method in the so called organised laying out of Lahore which could sometimes lead to disrespect of the same national heroes we are trying to honour. The inhabitants around don’t quite know where the road named after Maulana Shaukat Ali transforms into Peco Road. And where I live, people call their bridge Honey Bridge for reason of accurate identification. It is formally the Jinnah Flyover, located some ten kilometers away from Bagh-e-Jinnah and still farther from another Jinnah park. The same holds true for Iqbal. Work out the list yourself.