Category Archives: Partition

Women Cycle-Rakshaw Driver in Lahore Post-Partition

Woman cycle-rickshaw driver on Mall Road, Lahore. Dated post-Partition. (p.81, Ab woh Lahore Kahan)

Women Rakshaw

Via Musharraf A. Farooqi

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Zoroastrian/Parsee symbolism on commercial Buildings Mall Road Lahore

Photos by Maaria Waseem

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Secret recipe: Das Kulcha

This report was first published here

Das kulcha was one of the most popular breakfast items in Lahore for breakfast until about three decades ago.
Das Kulcha

LAHORE The city of Lahore, along with its ancient traditions and culture, is also known for its mouth-watering cuisine which predates even the British Raj. But Partition, apart from tearing apart Lahoris, also affected the city’s cuisine. For example, the traditional das kulcha, which existed in the Mughal era, gradually faded out and disappeared.  Continue reading

Lahore: Future Of The Past

Lahore Nama is sharing this insightful video by Shah Salman Sirhindi on the deteriorating situation of Lahore’s heritage especially the houses of commoners. These are centuries old houses and have immense importance from heritage point of view but next generations may not be able to witness how their forefathers used to live in Lahore.

Future Of The Past – Directed by Shah Salman Sirhindi from Syed Salman Ahmed Sirhindi on Vimeo.

When Jews found refuge in an unlikely place: Pakistan

Growing Up Jewish in Lahore — And in an Internment Camp

Kahan

From left, Hazel Kahan, her mother Kate, and her brother Michael, in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1948. / Photo by Hazel Kahan / The Forward

By Gabe Friedman

 

When Hazel Kahan went back to Lahore, Pakistan, in 2011 for the first time in 40 years, her childhood homes were completely different. Her first home, formerly a tan stone mansion covered in flowery vines, was now completely painted in white and inhabited by the Rokhri family, one of Pakistan’s most powerful political clans. Her second home, where her parents had run a medical clinic, had become the Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and Arts.

After living in England, Australia and Israel, and having worked in market research in Manhattan for years, Kahan, 75, now lives in Mattituck, on the North Fork of Long Island. She produces interviews for WPKN radio in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and has recently begun discussing her family history in public presentations, telling a story that illustrates how complicated citizenship and allegiances were for Jews during and after World War II in Pakistan and beyond. She has presented her piece “The Other Pakistan” in Woodstock and Greenport, New York and twice in Berlin. She plans to bring her performance to Montreal in November.

“I never really cared about it, I never bothered, until [my father] died [in 2007],” Kahan said of the project. “Then I realized there’s no one left to tell this story. He did his best to pass it on to us. And we’re responsible, you know?”

The story begins in 1933, when Kahan’s parents, Hermann Selzer and Kate Neumann, left Nazi Germany separately for Italy, where Jews were allowed to study medicine. Hermann and Kate (who had briefly met in Berlin years before) met again in Rome and married in 1935. As Europe became increasingly dangerous for Jews, they decided to leave the continent. Most Jews migrated to British-controlled Palestine, but Kahan’s parents made their decision of where to go on a whim. At a dinner party in Rome, an Italian monsignor suggested that they move to Lahore, Pakistan, which was then still part of British India and a city that had an exotic reputation as a crossroads for travelers and traders.

“He said to them: ‘Why are you thinking of going to Palestine?’” Kahan said. “‘You’re young, you’re cosmopolitan, you have medical degrees; in India they need European doctors. Go to India.’”

It turned out to be a great decision — at least for a while. Kahan said that her parents were graciously welcomed in Lahore. They set up a successful medical practice, and her father became part of the British elite class. Lahore was a worldly city with a vibrant international culture.

“Lahore was a very special place because it was at the crossroads of a lot of trade from the East going to Iran and Turkey,” Kahan said, who was born there in 1939. “So people came through and the whole place became a room for travelers.”

That didn’t mean that there were a lot of Jews in Lahore. In the 40s, around 2,000 Jews lived in Pakistan, and most of them were settled in the port city of Karachi.

Kahan’s family lived a largely secular life. For Passover, Kahan recalls eating chapati (more commonly called roti), the unleavened flatbread found throughout India and Pakistan, without really knowing why. The annual sign of Yom Kippur was her father’s fast, which gave him a headache each year.

“It’s kind of difficult to be a Jew if there are no Jews around,” Kahan said.

In December 1940, in the early stages of World War II, Kahan’s family was forced by the British-Indian government to move to internment camps in Purandhar Fort, and later in Satara, in the southwest of India. This happened because the Selzers were “stateless,” and thus considered enemy aliens by the government. Poland had passed a law in 1938 that revoked citizenship from any Polish citizen who had been abroad for at least five years. The Selzers fit this description: Hermann was born in Poland, but his family had moved to Oberhausen, Germany, when he was a child. Kate was born in Germany but assumed Polish nationality when she married Hermann. They had Polish passports to travel to British India, but ceased to be citizens of Poland after the new citizenship laws took effect.

“I think there were maybe like 200 families [in the interment camp],” Kahan said. “They were classified as German Nazis, German anti-Nazis, which we were, and then Italian fascists. So the camp was kind of divided in that way, and we were lopped in with the German anti-Nazis, who were mainly missionaries.”

In the internment camp, the family had a house and lived a relatively normal life under supervision of local officials for five years. Nevertheless, the Selzers had to abandon their medical practice and move away from Lahore. Most interned families faced financial hardships. Their relations to the government and those around them inevitably changed.

In the internment camp, Hermann Selzer began to write down his experiences. He continued to write until he had a stroke, a few years before his death in 2007. Many of his writings, in addition to a collection of his letters, legal documents, and photographs from the 40s through the 60s are now archived on microfilm at the Leo Baeck Institute, a research library of German-Jewish history housed in the Center for Jewish History in New York. Selzer never published any of his work.

“He was a very disciplined man,” Kahan said of her father. “And I bought him a typewriter. He sat writing every morning and then I bought him an electronic typewriter, and he wore it out so I bought him another one.”

After the war ended, the Selzers moved back to Lahore and restarted their practice. By the Six Day War in 1967, relations between Jews and Muslims had soured (Pakistan is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world). By 1971, the atmosphere had gotten so tense that the Selzers decided to move to Israel. Kahan said that her parents wanted to spend their entire life in Pakistan, and dreamt of dispensing free medical care to people throughout the Middle East after they retired.

“But being Jewish was no longer being Jewish, it was being Zionist,” Kahan said. “And that was the problem.”

In Israel, Hermann worked part-time at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and kept writing. By this time, in a testament to the international turmoil they lived through, the Selzers had accumulated four passports: They had retained their Polish passports, earned Pakistani passports, were given German passports after the war (as a recognition of suffering, Kahan explained), and obtained Israeli passports upon settling in Jerusalem.

Decades later, Kahan went through her father’s letters and documents and wrote two unpublished memoirs — “A House in Lahore” and “An Untidy Life” — about her childhood; both were subtitled “Growing Up Jewish in Pakistan.”

The title of her new presentation, “The Other Pakistan,” refers to the seemingly unexpected hospitality and warmth that she has repeatedly experienced as a Jew in a predominantly Muslim country. (Today, at most 800 Jews live there.)

“Pakistan is obviously a really horrible country, with everything bad from Taliban to whatever you want to say,” Kahan said. “But the point is for me is that the other Pakistan is this hospitable place.”

Despite having gone to boarding schools in England and living in various other countries throughout her adult life — not to mention being forced to live in an interment camp as a child — Pakistan is still close to Kahan’s heart. She explained that she has been graciously welcomed back into the Pakistani community every time she has visited.

“I feel because I was born there that in a very profound way it’s my home,” she said. “Even though I’m not of it, I’m from there.”

This Article was originally posted here

10 desolate monuments of Lahore

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Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, is one of the epicenters of architecture, particularly that belonging to the Mughal period. Historical monuments and buildings serve as visual reminders of the past. They bring the general public closer to the relics of various civilizations that had once existed in the pre-historic times. The historical pieces are like safe vaults carrying centuries old secret treasures. Not only do they connect people with their history and cultural heritage, they also give them a better understanding of where they hail from and how they should appropriately define themselves today.

Unfortunately, most of the monuments in Lahore are facing a host of issues ranging from human neglect, environment degradation to factors as aging and natural decay. Despite conservation efforts, the Department of Archaeology and Government of Pakistan have failed to preserve various monuments that possess sheer historical importance.

Chauburji

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Situated on the Multan Road, the monument was actually a gateway to a garden that has now disappeared. It is called Chauburji (the four minarets) because of its four corner minarets, out of which one on the north west corner was actually lost. The fragmentary inscription on its eastern archway records that the garden was founded in 1664 A.D by a lady, mentioned metaphorically as “Sahib-e-Zebinda.

The reference is most probably to Jahan Ara Begum, the eldest daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan who was entitled as “Begum Sahib “.

The main architectural merit of the building is its rich mosaic decoration with which its entire façade including the octagonal corner minarets are brilliantly embellished

Tomb of Anarkali

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Anarkali, a beautiful girl brought up in Akbars Tharam was suspected by the Emperor of having a secret love affair with prince Salim (Emperor Jahangir). According to the legend, she was executed for her amorous folly in 1599 A.D. Six years later, when Salim came to the throne, he in the memory of his beloved, constructed a monument known as Anarkali Tomb. The mausoleum which stands within the enclosure of the Punjab Civil Secretariat, was completed in 1615 A.D. It has undergone great changes from time to time that it has lost all its original decorations. In 1891 A.D. it was converted into Punjab Records office and still serves the same purpose.

Hazuri Bagh and Baradari

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The quadrangle now occupied by the garden called Hazuri Bagh with a marble Baradari (1818 A.D.) in its center, was originally a Sarai built by Aurangzeb, where during the Mughal rule thronged the Imperial cavalcade and armed retainers.

The two storied building adjoining the southern gateway (Hazuri bagh Gate) was also originally built in the time of Aurangazeb as a boarding house for scholars. Later on it was used as Abdar-Khana or place for keeping refreshing drinks. During the reign of Ranjit Singh it came to be called Gulabkhana or “Rose water House”. During the British period it was again used as a boarding house for students.

The marble baradari was constructed in 1818A.D. by Ranjit Singh.

The Sikh Maharaja used to sit in state and transact business of his kingdom, and it was also in this baradari that Sher Singh received the British Embassy sent by Lord Ellenborough in 1843 A.D.

Dai Anga Tomb

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Behind the Gulabi Bagh Gateway and on the site of the former garden lies the mausoleum of Dai Anga, nurse of Shahjahan. She was the wife of Murad Khan, a Mughal Magistrate of Bikaner. She also founded Dai Anga’s Mosque, one of the well known ancient mosques of Lahore. The Quranic inscription on the walls of the tomb chamber ends in the name of the scribe, Muhammad Salih. According to the date inscribed on the tomb, it was constructed in 1671 A.D. The mausoleum comprising a central tomb chamber and eight rooms around it, was once beautifully decorated with mosaic work.

Samadhi of Ranjit Singh

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Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler, ruled Punjab from 1799 to 1839 A.D. His Samadhi occupying the spot where he was cremated lies just opposite the Lahore Fort. It was commenced by his son Kharak Singh and completed in 1848 A.D. Built in bricks with a sprinkling of red sandstone and marble, it is a mixture of Hindu and Muslim architecture composed and constructed in conformity with Hindu tastes. The ceilings are decorated with class mosaic or plain glass work. Eleven smaller marble knobs placed all around hold ashes of four queens and seven slave girls. The interior of the Samadhi chamber is also decorated with frescoes depicting mostly the stories of the Sikh Gurus.

Haveli Maharaja Naunihal Singh

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Haveli Nau Nihal Singh is reckoned among the most magnificent buildings of Lahore constructed during the Sikh period. It was built by Nau Nihal Singh, son of Maharaja Kharak Singh, and was used as his private residence. It contains numerous spacious chambers, halls and balconies. The roofs are decorated with paintings and mirrors decorated with gold. The walls are richly ornamented with glasses and artificial flowers.

Tomb of French Officer’s Daughter

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The tomb exists on a mound to the east of main road from old Anarkali to Jain Mandir. Still this area is known as Kuri Da Bagh (Daughter’s Garden) named after the French officer’s daughter.

Originally this garden was laid by General Venture a coach to Sikh army. Another French General M. Allard an officer in the services of Maharaja Ranjgit Singh was also residing in the same garden who remained in service from 1822 to 1889.

The daughter of General M. Allard named Marie Charlotte died on April 5 in 1827 in Lahore and she was buried on a mound in the north west corner of this garden. General H. Allard also died due to heart attack in January, 1889 during the campaign of Peshawar and his body was brought to Lahore and buried by the side of his daughter in the same tomb.

It is small tomb with a dome octagonal in plan. On the top of the main entrance, a tablet with Persian script is fixed bearing the name of the bidder and the death date of Marie Charlotte.

Gulabi Bagh Gateway

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Known for its excellence of rich and vivid mosaic tile work and superb calligraphy on plaster base, this was the entrance gate to a garden which like many others in Lahore has now disappeared. It was constructed by a Persian noble, Mirza Sultan Baig, who was Aminul Bahr (admiral of fleet). It is said that in 1657 A.D while on a hunting excursion to the royal hunting reserve at Hiran Minar near Sheikhupura, he died from the bursting of an English gun given to him by Shahjahan. The title “Gulabi Bagh” (Rose garden) occurs in the last line of the inscription of over the archway which not only describes the kind of the garden, but as a chronogram, also gives the date of its construction, 1655 A.D.
Kos Minar

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In 1609 the Emperor Jahangir ordered a small minaret like monuments to be built at every kos along the Grand Trunk Road. Kos was an ancient measure of the territory distance which varied from time to time. It was derived from Kross meaning a “cry” used as an indication of distance as early as 300 BC. It was probably known also to Hiuen Tsang in the seventh century AD. During the period of Emperor Jahangir the conventional Kos, was measured between 2 miles 3 furlongs to 2 miles 5 furlongs. Remians of a 4 Kos Minars of Mughal period still exist in the environs of Lahore, among which the typical example at Shahu-ki-Garhi near the railway line just outside Lahore station is prominent. It is built of burnt bricks about 27 feet high, with an octagonal base and cone-shaped super structure not having any inscription.

The other Kos Minars exist in the most miserable condition.

Bhadrakali Mandir

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Bhardrakali Mandir, an ancient Hindu temple is situated inside the famous Thokar Niaz Baig. The temple dedicated to an incarnation of the Hindu deity, Durga Mata was once a grand complex comprising various smadhs (stupas), baoli (well), banyan tree, a pool and two temples. According to the writer Kanhiya Lal, the largest Hindu festival of Lahore used to be held in this temple. Unfortunately, historical account regarding the main temple can’t be found. However, another structure created by Maharaja Ranjit Singh during his reign still stands there and is being used as government primary school.

This article was originally posted at Dunya News Urdu Website

Of Minto Park Lahore

This article was originally published in The News on the PTI “Jalsa” in Minto Park.

Sabir Shah

LAHORE: Lahore’s Minto Park (now called Iqbal Park), where the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan staged yet another big rally on Sunday evening, has previously seen nearly every political entity like the All India Muslim League, the Khaksar Tehreek, the incumbent PML-N, the Pakistan People’s Party, JUI-F, Pakistan Awami Tehreek, the MQM and the General Musharraf-led PML-Q etc holding widely-attended corner meetings during the last 74 years or since March 23, 1940.

Minto Park Lahore is also famous for breeding innumerable cricketing gems. Along with Pakistan’s Cricket legend Fazal Mahmood (1927-2005), with whom American actress Ava Gardener (1922-90) had requested to dance and whose fans included former Indian Premier Indira Gandhi, numerous Indian and Pakistani cricketers like Lala Amarnath, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Imtiaz Ahmed, Nazar Muhammad, Mudassar Nazar, Saleem Malik, Saleem Pervaiz, Sarfraz Nawaz, Shafqat Rana, Azmat Rana, Javed Burki, Majid Khan, Imran Khan himself, Zulfiqar Ahmed, Shuja-ud-Din, Amir Elahi,Gul Mohammad, Dr Dilawar Hussein, Ameer Hussain, Maqsood Ahmed and sub-continent’s quickest ever fast bowler, Muhammad Nisar etc. had polished their skills on these grounds.

Continue reading

Building with the inscription

The half-burnt building in Shah Alam Market tells the story of a bank that was never meant to be

From the foundation stone to the very inch of the complete structure – every building encompasses a journey. But some stories always remain untold like the story of Gobind Ram and Hindustan Commercial Bank. Sixty years since the partition of India and the building with the inscription ‘Gobind Ram Kahan’ and ‘Hindustan Commercial Bank Established 1805’ still remains amidst the hustle bustle of vendors, gold and crockery traders of Rang Mahal in the walled city.

Badar Munir Butt of AL-Sadiq Jewellers was four years old in 1947. Though he faintly remembers the partition violence he has heard stories about Gobind Ram and the building. His shop is adjacent to the half burnt building. According to him, Gobind Ram owned a shop at the ground floor of the present building. Trader of achaar, chatni and sharbat, Gobind Ram’s sharbat was very famous in this area. Supposedly, one of the richest men in this area he was well-respected too. And, with money comes influence. When he, with his family, left Lahore for India he had put the money and jewellery in the basement of this same building. Some years after the partition he came here with Army officials from both India and Pakistan and took away all the jewellery and money that they had kept safe in the basement. To the neighbours’ dismay, the loads of gold and money kept lying there all those years without them knowing about it.

According to an elderly man who owns a shop in the basement of the building.and also one of the oldest residents of the area, Gobind Ram’s sharbat was “famous and if one bought it for one takka, one would reach Amritsar but the sharbat wouldn’t finish.”

All the gates of Lahore survived the violence of partition except the Shah Alam Gate which was destroyed along with other buildings in this area. From Shah Alam to Rang Mahal, this was the sole building that survived and that only because it was a new building. Some myths follow the existence of a trench in the basement that goes to the Lahore Fort.

The branch of Hindustan Commercial Bank for which the new building was made never saw the light of the day. Established in 1805 one branch of the bank was supposed to be opened here in Lahore and Gobind Ram was among the partners.

Majeed Sheikh, a renowned historian, informed that The Hindustan Commercial Bank Lahore was to be one of the five branches of the bank that was established in 1805 and whose first branch was opened in Amritsar. The bank opened in Bengal on January 2, 1809. Two branches were to be opened in Lahore, one here in the walled city and the other in Neela Gumbad. “After 1965 war with India the building was declared enemy property.”

During the partition the present area of Rang Mahal, Suha Bazaar and the adjoining area was a Hindu majority area. A Baowli, a reminiscence of the Sikh history in Lahore, was also situated in this area. The Baowli was destroyed during the partition violence. But some Sikhs visit it even today to remember the long forgotten ghosts. Dr Khan, the Chief Minister of One Unit, got the Baowli renovated during his government. Haveli Mian Khan, also located here, now has almost hundred small houses in its premises. Settlement Department gave the houses on claim while some were built.

Kashmiri Bazaar was the hub of trade in pre-partition days. There was a press and several famous shops in this locality. Being a Hindu majority area the trade and business of this area was also controlled by Hindus. Now the building is encircled by garment shops, gold market and crockery.

This article was originally posted here written by Sarah Sikander.

Pakistan’s Identity Battle Plays Out in Lahore

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The battle for Pakistan’s identity is playing out in Lahore’s streets and – oddly, on its thoroughfares and intersections. On 23rd March, this year, a group of civil society representatives gathered at Lahore’s Shadman Chowk to commemorate the 82nd death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, a Sikh freedom fighter renowned for his revolutionary struggle as part of the independence movement, and who became stuff of legend when he was hanged by the British in 1931 after a brief but eventful insurrection against colonial rule. The gathering, however, was disrupted by members of a religious group which was holding a protest aimed at denouncing the idea of renaming the chowk after Bhagat Singh, simultaneously.

The chowk and the adjacent area used to be Lahore’s central jail during the British Raj, and Bhagat Singh is believed to have been hanged at the site of what is now Shadman Chowk.

Late last year, a group of Lahoris made progress in getting local officials to rename a busy traffic circle for Bhagat Singh, a Sikh revolutionary who. They see it as a chance to honor a local hero who they feel transcends the ethnic and sectarian tensions gripping the country today — and also as an important test of the boundaries of inclusiveness here.

But in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, questions of religious identity also become issues of patriotism, and the effort has raised alarm bells among conservatives and Islamists. The circle was named in 2010 for Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Muslim student who coined the name Pakistan in the 1930s, and there was an outcry at the news that it might be renamed for a non-Muslim.

“If a few people decide one day that the name has to be changed, why should the voice of the majority be ignored?” asked Zahid Butt, the head of a neighborhood business association here and a leader of the effort to block the renaming.

The fight over the traffic circle — which, when they are pressed, locals usually just call Shadman Circle, after the surrounding neighborhood — has become a showcase battle in a wider ideological war over nomenclature and identity here and in other Pakistani cities.

Although many of Lahore’s prominent buildings are named for non-Muslims, there has been a growing effort to “Islamize” the city’s architecture and landmarks, critics of the trend say. In that light, the effort to rename the circle for Mr. Singh becomes a cultural counteroffensive.

“Since the ’80s, the days of the dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, there has been an effort that everything should be Islamized — like the Mall should be called M. A. Jinnah Road,” said Taimur Rahman, a musician and academic from Lahore, referring to one of the city’s central roads and to the country’s founder. “They do not want to acknowledge that other people, from different religions, also lived here in the past.”

A recent nationwide surge in deadly attacks against religious minorities, particularly against Ahmadi and Hazara Shiites, has again put a debate over tolerance on the national agenda. Though most Sikhs fled Pakistan soon after the partition from India in 1947, the fight over whether to honor a member of that minority publicly bears closely on the headlines for many.

A push to honor Mr. Singh has been going on here for years. But it was not until the annual remembrance of his birth in September that things came to a head. A candlelight demonstration to support renaming the traffic circle had an effect, and a senior district official agreed to start the process. As part of it, he asked the public to come forward with any objections. The complaints started pouring in.

Traders of Shadman Market, the local trade group led by Mr. Butt, threatened a strike. Chillingly, warnings against the move were issued by leaders of the Islamic aid group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, largely believed to be a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clerics voiced their opposition during Friday Prayer.

The issue quickly became a case for the city’s High Court, which said it would deliberate on a petition, initiated by Mr. Butt and a coalition of religious conservatives, to block the name change. That was in November, and the case still awaits a hearing date. The provincial government has remained in tiptoe mode ever since. “It is a very delicate matter,” said Ajaz Anwar, an art historian and painter who is the vice chairman of a civic committee that is managing the renaming process.

Mr. Anwar said some committee members had proposed a compromise: renaming the circle after Habib Jalib, a widely popular postindependence poet. That move has been rejected out of hand by pro-Singh campaigners.

Mr. Rahman and other advocates for renaming the circle paint it as a test of resistance to intolerance and extremism, and they consider the government and much of Lahore society to have failed it.

“The government’s defense in the court has been very halfhearted,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer representing the activists. “The government lawyer did not even present his case during earlier court proceedings.”

The controversy threatens to become violent. On March 23, the anniversary of Mr. Singh’s death, police officers had to break up a heated exchange between opposing groups at the circle.

Mr. Rahman and the other supporters have vowed to continue fighting, saying it has become a war over who gets to own Pakistan’s history.

“There is a complete historical amnesia and black hole regarding the independence struggle from the British,” Mr. Rahman said, adding of the Islamists, “They want all memories to evaporate.”

 {Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/asia/plan-to-rename-traffic-circle-provokes-outcry-in-lahore-pakistan.html?ref=global-home&_r=1&}

A line drawn a couple of kilometres from Ludhiana may have defined borders and changed the world for most people. But on either sides there are some things that have become vestiges of another time, another place. TOI traces a few of these legacies of Partition in the city that trigger memories on this side of the border
Walking zig zag between vehicles and people at Lajpat Rai Market near Clock Tower, it is easy to walk past the Lahore Book Shop without much incidence. But, that is only for the uninitiated. For everyone else, the not-so-fancy bookstore is a legacy of the Partition and a destination in itself.
Ludhiana’s literature lovers file into the shop, go through the piles of books stacked one on another and find their pick before heading out with a smile. They say the store is a faithful witness of change while sticking to its roots.
The year was 1940, the place Lahore and Jiwan Singh, who had just finished post graduation in English, had many career opportunities staring him. He could have a cushy government job or work as English professor in any college of the time. But Jiwan decided differently and started the ”dicey” business of publishing Punjabi literature. His motivation was the desire to promote Punjabi and help students easily get books in the language.

Read the complete piece at:

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2012/05/28/city/lahore/a-little-piece-of-lahore-in-india/

Shades Of The Old Punjab

Picture on the left – Joga Singh with a maulvi outside the mosque in Sarwarpur that his brother Sajjan helped reconstruct
This is a great, heart-warming piece from Outlook India which says that “Across rural Punjab, Sikhs and Hindus are helping restore mosques destroyed during Partition”

Brothers In Arms

  • Around 200 mosques across Punjab have been repaired, rebuilt or built from scratch with the help of Sikhs and Hindus in the last 10 years
  • Many destroyed during Partition riots are now being restored by village communities
  • In some cases, the Jamaat-e-Islami is involved, but most are unorganised village-level efforts
  • It’s a reassertion, after decades, of Punjab’s unique religious and cultural synthesis

The Ghuman family of Sarwarpur, near Ludhiana, cannot understand what the fuss is about. Ever since Sajjan Singh Ghuman, an NRI Sikh living in England, rebuilt a mosque in his native village that was damaged during Partition, the shrine, as well as his family back home, have attracted the curiosity of  outsiders. “We never imagined we would be on a Punjabi TV channel just because my elder brother rebuilt this small mosque for the poor Muslim families of our village. For him, it was just a gesture towards restoring the collective heritage of our village,” says Sajjan’s brother, Joga Singh, who manages the family’s lands in Sarwarpur. Sure. But what Joga and his family, or even  the TV channel, do not know is that the sentiment that inspired his brother’s act is being manifested in scores of villages across Punjab, with Sikhs and Hindus joining hands to either rebuild old and damaged mosques or build new ones. Odd? Perhaps. But Punjab, as admirers of its unique religious synthesis say, has always defied stereotypes to do its own thing. Continue reading

A house, Partitioned?

By Ahmad Rafay Alam

I was born into one of those families that presumes one completes their studies in a Western university.  And so it was that I found, like the many other Pakistani law students who read law in the United Kingdom, preparing for my bar qualification as a student barrister at Lincolns’ Inn.  Though the bar was dreadfully boring and, as I later discovered back home, totally irrelevant to the Pakistani legal system, I was lucky to find accommodation in the Goodenough Trust’s William Goodenough House in London’s quiet McLenburgh Square.

Under one of the terms of the trust governing the William Goodenough House, accommodation is open only to post-graduate students from outside the United Kingdom.  This was refreshing because, in place of the drunken undergraduate shenanigans common at other student accommodation, “Willie G” offered an amusing alternative in the drunken shenanigans of international post-graduate students.

Willie G had quite a few Pakistani residents.  United, I suppose, by a shared social and cultural background, we forged the type of deep friendships one forges when they live thousands of miles from home.  Of course our revelry came at the cost of our grades.  I once heard an admissions tutor comment about how it was dangerous to recruit more than a dozen Pakistanis into any academic program: “They form a cricket team and never do any work.”  Though we never formed a cricket team – a good idea, in hindsight – the sentiment echoes true enough.

It was when I was in Willie G that I met and became friends with Martand.  Martand was from India, and for a Pakistani like me he was a great way to get to know about India, the country next door that figured so prominently in defining what my country was.  At the time, I had never been to India.  I had no notion of what India was like or what Indians were like other than the opinions I’d picked up in school text books, novels, television, the press, movies.  You get the picture.  Like anyone else, I suppose, I was coloured by the prejudice of history.  In the case of India and Pakistan, nothing attracts more prejudice than the fractural events of Partition. Continue reading

Romancing the city of Lahore

Khalid Hasan writing for the Friday Times

I first came upon Pran Nevile when Saeed Ahmed Khan, a gentleman from Lahore, whom I unfortunately never met but with whom I used to correspond, told me about him. He said the two of them were classmates back in the old days and the best of friends. He also sent me two or three clips of Pran Nevile’s Lahore reminiscences. Some time later, I was able to lay my hands on his book, Lahore, a sentimental journey, and we began to write to each other. Some years ago, he came to the United States and we met. On my last visit to New Delhi I spent time with him and his family and we talked about many things, but mostly Lahore. Pran Nevile is and has been a “ chalta phirta Lahore” as Saadat Hasan Manto was a “chalta phirta Bumbaii”.

Pran told me that in all the years he had been away from Lahore, there wasn’t a day when he had not remembered and longed for the city where he was born, where he had played as a child, where he had spent his early youth and where he had gone to college. Lahore has been the love of his life. Last year when he came to Lahore, his third visit, he brought his grandson and his daughter-in-law with him so that he could show them “my city.” This time, what had brought him back was the release of the official Pakistan edition of his Lahore book. Pran Nevile also recorded a long interview with the progressive journal Awami Jamhoor Forum, in the course of which he remembered Lahore as it was and as he had found it.

Pran said it had taken him 51 years to return to Lahore. The year of his return, something he had waited for and dreamed about all along, was 1997. When asked if he agreed that Lahore (which to him has always been “Le-hore”) had changed, he replied, “That may be true but man himself has changed, so has the world. Hasn’t London changed in the last 50 years? There is no city in the Subcontinent that has remained the same during these 50 years. Change is part of life. I don’t say that those times were better and these times are not. Every age has its high and low points. While the present generation should know the past, the old generation should learn from the present and move on. I am not one of those who find fault with everything contemporary. I don’t bore the young of today by telling them, for example, that pop music is rubbish and there has been no voice like that of the old Nur Jehan. I never bring these things up, which is why the young like me.”

Pran said he was delighted with the way the city looked today. “The way you have maintained and taken care of the Mall’s upkeep is a wonderful sight to behold. From Charing Cross to Tollinton Market, the Mall has been preserved. What changes have been brought about, I find most pleasing. The Dinga Singh Building, which is Lahore’s hallmark, is still where it was. The High Court, the Sir Ganga Ram Trust Building, the Laxami Mansion, the Dyal Singh Mansion are all still standing.” He recalled that when some people wanted to demolish Tollinton Market, he too joined hands with the Lahore Conservation Society to save this historic 125-year old Lahore landmark. After all, it was built by the people of Lahore and it belonged to them. Nobody had any right to bring it down. Continue reading

Memories of Lahore Breezes

Desh Kapoor writes at desicritics:

She must have walked on the same streets that were once walked by my father. Maybe the fruits that had falled from the trees that had once fed my grandfather had also been tasted by her. Now, she was standing right in our house bringing the air of Lahore with her. Rubab Saleem (blogs at Pakistan Times) was visiting us in Houston and I could not miss being mesmerized by the situation. It was ridden with quiet nostalgia in my mind.Both my parents and their forefathers came from Lahore. While my father’s family was from Lahore proper, my mother’s family came from Sheikhupura, near Lahore. While my father and his parents migrated in 1920’s due to my grandfather’s Government job, my mother’s side came during partition. I would sit down with my Nanaji for hours discussing his childhood and youth. I still remember him picking up the Hindustan Times with a story on the terrorist training camps for the Khalistanis in 1980’s with a map of the various places where those camps were and pointing those places to me. “Here I played my first hockey match”… and “Here I went to college”.. etc. He had travelled wide and well in that land and was fluent in Farsi and Urdu (oral and written).

After all these decades, the Internet had accomplished me to do another thing. Sort of close the loop that had been left open – a young girl from Lahore finally brought that whiff of that city – which has a special place in Punjabiyat of South Asia – to our home. Continue reading

The 14th Gate (of old Lahore)

by Majid Sheikh 

MOST people living outside of the old, walled city do not know the names of all the 13 gates. Cynics even claim there are 12 gates and a hole — Mori. Little is it realised that today the walled city has 14 ‘guzars’ or gates.

It might come as a surprise to many that a 14th gate or ‘guzar’ exists, and functions like the rest. Traffic flows in and out of it and the classic bazaar to go with it is also in place. For the purist it comes as a surprise, but if you happen to visit the walled city, and are concerned about its future, then it is time that this 14th gate be recognised. But if you feel that it should not be allowed, then it must be closed, just as a former chief minister tried, but failed. (image in the right was taken by Naeem Rashid)

Continue reading

Toynbee on Amritsar and Lahore

Found this old but crisp piece by the great the historian here

Amritsar & Lahore

by ARNOLD TOYNBEE

The following is a chapter from East to West  –  A Journey Round the World, by Arnold Toynbee, the greatest historian/philosopher of the twentieth century. Toynbee was also the author of the monumental A Study of History. 

 Minnesotan reader, imagine, if you can, that the perversity of human nature has split your splendid state in two, by driving an international frontier in between Minneapolis and St. Paul. 

Imagine that every Catholic in the United States, north-west of that outrageous line, has had to flee for his life, leaving home, job and professions behind him, and cross the line to live the wretched life of a “displaced person” on the safe side of it. 

Imagine that every Protestant south-east of the line has had to make the same tragic migration, in the opposite direction. 

And, then imagine that the road traffic across the new frontier has been entirely cut off (there is a no-man’s land, two miles broad, that is forbidden ground for cars traveling in either direction).  Railroad traffic still survives, but it has been reduced to a single train a day.  The armed guards on board it change, as the fearsome border is crossed. 

Imagine all this, and you will have pictured to yourself what has happened in real life to that unfortunate country, the Panjab, and its historic twin cities, Amritsar and Lahore.

Amritsar is a creation of the Sikh religion.  Continue reading

Amrita Sher Gil’s Lahore

Khalid Hasan
Published in the Friday Times    

 Amrita Sher Gil was once asked by Iqbal Singh, who was to write her biography 43 years after her death in Lahore in 1941, at the age of 28, why she had never painted a portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru, whom she knew and liked. She replied, “Because he is too good looking.” And so he was, and so was she. Col Ronny Datta, who as aide-de-camps to President Radhakrishnan, would often get to see Nehru, told me once that there was always such a glow on Nehru’s face that you couldn’t keep your eyes on it for long.

Amrita met Nehru in Lahore when he came for a day to team up with Congress workers and address a public meeting. He was staying in a house just across the road from Faletti’s Hotel with Diwan Ram Lal, a judge of the Punjab High Court, and elder brother of Dewan Chaman Lal, with whom and with his wife Helen, Amrita was great friends. Nehru, Ram Lal, Dr Khan Sahib, elder brother of Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, had shared a flat in London as students. Although Nehru and Amrita met no more than three times, they often exchanged letters. As her most recent biographer Yashodhara Dalmia has written, “The exact nature of their relationship is difficult to gauge, because many of Nehru’s letters were later burnt by Amrita’s parents, much to her chagrin, while she was away in Budapest getting married” to her cousin Karl. Her mother was Hungarian and her father a Sikh landlord from Punjab, Sardar Umrao Singh Majithia. (It is to be wondered if the Majithia Hall on Empress Road in Lahore has some connection to Amrita’s father’s family.)

She wrote to her father after learning what had happened, “I had left them behind not because I thought them dangerous witnesses to my evil past but because I didn’t wish to increase my already heavy luggage. However, I suppose I have to resign myself to a bleak old age unrelieved by the entertainment that the perusal of old love letters would have afforded it.” Continue reading

Lahore circa 1947

by Khalid Hasan

Ahmad Salim, one of our most assiduous research scholars, whose linguistic and poetic work is spread over more than four decades, put together an anthology four years ago which opens a window on Lahore as it was during the bloody and historic year of 1947. It is good this was done because we forget. In fact, we have already forgotten 1947. A Hamid brought back the city for us as it was in the early years of independence. My translation of this nostalgia-tinged writing, published 64 weeks running in the Daily Times , is currently under publication as a book by Vanguard.

In an introduction to Salim’s anthology, British historian Ian Talbot writes, “The arrival of refugees with tales of atrocities supported by the gruesome evidence of trainloads of corpses encouraged revenge attacks on minority communities. In the longer term, Lahore and more generally Punjab can be seen as a victim of political uncertainties and communal polarisation elsewhere in India.” He notes that relations between Hindus and Muslims had been correct but lacked warmth because of the social distance caused by high-caste Hindu concerns about pollution and inter-dining. Continue reading