Tag Archives: Saeed Ahmad Khan

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