By Usma Iftikhar
Lahore, its name rooted in Hindu Mythology, from one of the sons of Lord Ram, the city itself harbouring within itself, centuries and centuries of folklore and heritage, embedded in its every nook and corner.
From the various invasions and subsequent destruction which the city has borne witness to from the time of the Mongols to the Sikhs, no event has been successful in eradicating the vigour and the joie de vivre of the city and its inhabitants are known for.
Spread across the banks of Old Ravi where queens used to take rides in its waters, to the Walled City, the cultural metropolis spreads out like and embroided work of art, guarding bits and pieces of history like embedded jewels. One has to appreciate the beauty and glory of each site before deciphering its time meaning and its cultural significance.
Each place has its own story to tell relating to a unique episode in its history, from the medieval monuments like Old Hindu temples to the Moghul monuments, amendments by the Sikhs and of course its Colonial Heritage.
One the various enchanting aspects of the City were the names by which the citizens associated themselves with and by which the City swore its allegiance with History’s milestones.
While much has been written about the Gates of the Old City, visible and invisible, much is needed to be written about the rapidly evolving practice of re-naming the old locations of the city.
While localities like Krishan Nagar and Kot Radha Kishan are reminder of our combined past, the areas developed on and along the Mall Road bear testament to our Colonial Masters.
What is sad that after gaining freedom as an independent state, in our attempt to establish our identity or in our zeal to prove ourselves zealous Muslims, the practice of re-naming of the old city and replacing it with the names of prominent Islamic icons or personalities taking part in Independence Movement.
While these people should be recognized for their due diligence, it is unfair to this old maid to strip off its old names and attempt to dress it in gawdy new clothes.
Thus Krishan Nagar becomes Islampura, Chairing Cross becomes Faisal Square, Davis Road becomes Sir Agha Khan Road, Cooper road becomes Khawaja Nazimuddin Road, Race Course becomes Jilani Park. Egerton Road, Victoria Bridge, Montgomery Road and the list does not end. Some proposed names are Al-Munawwar Road for Shaamnagar, Abdul-Rahman Chughtai for Turner Roadand Al-Faiz town for Rajhgarh. Who is aware of the significance of roads like Napier Road and Thoronton Road??
In their over-zealous pursuits of Islam, our rulers are attempting to thwart the identity of this cultural hub.
Ask any Old Lahori, living here /abroad and they will reminisce about the old names and streets with its particular identity. Tell them the newer names and they will stare at you questioningly.
While historians and civil activists have condemned this practice started in 2005, little has been done to undo the damage caused.
Sadly, the new generation who has not read/heard these names will be oblivious to this chapter in the history of this city. If I, as a Lahori who has spent three decades of her life in this city has confusion associating herself to this ‘pure’ city, what does this entail for the older generation who would consider themselves ill at ease with the ‘new’ Lahore?
In our attempt to bring puritan Islam to our previously pluralistic society, should we go ahead and re-name the city itself?