Lahore: The Heart of a Nation

March 23, 1940, the dawn of a momentous day in the history of subcontinent. It was this glorious day when the inception of a new homeland took over the minds and hearts of patriotic Muslims all over the subcontinent. Pakistan Resolution was passed on this historic day at a place no less historic than history itself; the great Lahore. Manto Park stands witness to the day which became the genesis to a great, untiring struggle of seven years and finally Pakistan came into being. Yet again, it was Lahore, this great city, which had given rise to one of the greatest political movements of Asia. The grandeur, myth, charm and aura of Lahore was as formidable back then as it is now. The heritage of Lahore embellished with the magnificence of Mughal era is awe-aspiring from the very outset. From the splendor of Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque to the state of the art modernization which is displayed in every skyscraper around the city, everything has an impression of pure Lahore in it. This city has endured so much and has risen above every calamity and every odd in such a spectacular fashion that one cannot help but become awe-struck by this marvel of nature. Lahore has such an aura around it that it sometimes seems like a city extracted from a fantasy or a novel. Just like Edgon Heath created by Thomas Hardy, Lahore is ever present in every aspect of what goes in Pakistan.

With the passage of time, as Pakistan progressed and as the population grew, a tendency of moving towards urban centres increased. Yet again, Lahore became second home to the most distant of the population of Punjab which headed towards it for either education or earning a livelihood. Cultures from all across the country were mixed together in such a beautiful manner that only Lahore could have been taken into light to exhibit the whole culture, tradition and heritage of Pakistan. But the most fascinating thing about it all was that even after such intermixing of cultures, Lahore always had its own unique carved out identity which never disappeared. The thing with Lahore that has always stood out is the way it encompasses every diversification of culture and still comes out as unique as always. Individuality and originality are the essence of Lahore. Here you can find people who have refused to give up their native norms and methods and are content in living like they always had, still thinking of their city as the same they once knew. At the same time, there are people who play Linkin Park and Adele, who dine at five-star hotels, try out continental Mediterranean cuisines and crave for the likes of Rihanna, Akcent and Beyonce, prefer Levi’s over the traditional Lattha and study in American schools. But in all this diversity, one thing is certain, visible and proven; they are all true Lahoris at heart. No matter how much foreign culture takes over in our cultural evolution, we Lahoris would never stop being ourselves. The streets of Lahore have borne witness to the merriment that was carried out when Pakistan won 1992 Cricket World Cup and the 2009 T-20 world cup. The world saw Lahore, yet again, in its true colour, without the divide of Desis and Burgers. From vertigo inducing highs to downing lows, Lahore has never lost its identity. Every aspect of this city is as fascinating as the next or the previous one.

Talking about vertigo inducing highs and downing lows, it is this great city that saw Goras dancing to the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in 1996 when Lahore hosted the final of Cricket World Cup. The same Lahore then witnessed the tragic dark day of March 2009 when the attack on Sri Lankan Cricket Team saw Pakistani stadiums deserted and cricket departing from Pakistan for 6 years but it was the same city that saw cricket finally coming home when Zimbabwe toured Pakistan last year. What else can be vertigo inducing highs and downing lows if not this?

How can it be possible to talk about Lahore and not mention the awesome food we have in this city? When it comes to food, nothing, and nothing at all beats Lahore. The delicacies of walled city have attracted people not just from around Pakistan, but all around the world. From the Siri Paye at Phajja to Nehari at Mozzang, from delicious Samosas of Qasr-e-Sheerin and Butt Sweets to Amritsari Hareesa of Nisbat Road, from the Takka Tak of Gawalmandi to Dahi Bhallay of Model Town, from the scrumptious Gol Gappay at Lawrence Garden to the delicious fried fish of Bashir and Siddique, from the Pairay wali Lassi of Railway Road to Dunba Karahi of Badami Bagh Truck Stand, from the Chicken Tawa Piece of Food Street of Lahore Fort to the mouth-watering Falooda of Old Anarkali, and exclusively extinct foods like Daas Kulcha and Khalifa Baker’s Naan Khatai, sold only in Walled City, everything is perfectly delectable and wonderfully Lahori. Even the sugarcane juice or Shakar Cola of Lahore have a signature of their own. Lahore took food from across the country and moulded it to suit the taste buds of typical Lahori foodies. Whether you eat Sindhi Biryani, Peshawari Chapli Kabab or Balochi Sajji, everything would be enriched with the typical flavouring of Lahore, yet will be original. But it’s not just about traditional tastes of Lahore. This city, obsessed with food, offers all the varieties there are to offer. The western style fast food chains and continental restaurants spread across modern Lahore provide our modern breed, all the delights they have become accustomed to, courtesy of the overpowering and ever evolving culture of Lahore which now also includes a tinge of westernization. In one city, you can find local food like Naan Chanay to Japanese Sushi and Chinese Manchurian, not to mention the Italian variety of pizza which is as readily and abundantly available as anything else. People can eat from around the world finally to come to the conclusion that Pakistani food is matchless in taste and style, especially if someone has eaten from Lahore.

But Lahore is not just all about food. Few cities would have witnessed the rich intellectual treasure that we once had but sadly lost like a lot of things. Lahore was filled with great, beautiful, thought provoking minds. The dreamers, the conceivers, the poets, the storytellers, the gems a whole world craves for, even now, were here in Lahore. No matter if you talk about films, theatre, music, drama or radio. Lahore had so much talent that nothing would come closer to compete with us. A place on Mall Road called Pak Tea House is like a ruin of an ancient castle which had intellectual kings living in it. To much of our dismay, the only thing to cherish about that place now is the name, and the relics of those gone ahead of us. Revolutionaries like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Saadat Hasan Manto, Habib Jalib, Munir Niazi, heart warmers like Mohsin Naqvi, Ahmed Faraz, A Hameed and Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, wanderers like Nasir Kazmi who would roam around The Mall late at night, artistic geniuses like Saadqain, Baba Zaheer Kashmiri and Chughtai who thought their profession as their only love, passionate future disciples like Hassan Nisar, mystic enigmas like Qudrat Ullah Shahab and epitome of calm like the great Ashfaq Ahmad, all under one roof, was something this city would probably never ever have again. The absence of such illustrious minds makes us ponder for one second, how much we have lost in gaining how little. It is safe to state that Radio Pakistan would have been nothing, had it not been for the contributions of the likes of Ashfaq Ahmad and others who sowed it with their souls.

Another great thing we had in Lahore was the theatre. There is no doubt that the comedy provided by the theatres of Lahore was so brilliant that nothing could replicate the effect it had on the viewers. Legends like Qavi Khan, Khalid Abbas Dar, Aman Ullah, Mastana, Babu Baral, Sohail Ahmad brought smiles on the most worried of faces. Their services have laid the platform for thousands to come and build on what they had left. Punjabi stage theatre was a wholesome entertainment for the whole family. The wit, response and banter portrayed in theatres of Lahore made the artists and their work “Shartiya Mitthay”. Whether it was theatre, music, drama or literature, Lahore had greats who were institutions in their own selves.

Another interesting thing about Lahore is the student life. Many students from across the country come to study in the prestigious institutes of Lahore and living in hostels is a completely unique experience. Hostels of Government College University, Punjab University and other colleges etc. have countless stories. Some alumni of Punjab University which lived in the New Campus hostel also say that Lahore Canal runs through their heart. One thing is certain; you can fall in love with Lahore without trying. It is often said in the folk wisdom that one who comes to Lahore never really leaves it.

Moving to commerce and industry, Lahore is the fastest growing industry of the province. Being Punjab’s commercial capital, it has become the centre of all trade activity. Lahore is serving as the hub of the IT industry of Pakistan that is progressing by leaps and bounds. Telecommunication field has evolved drastically and the emphatic growth has been amply utilized primarily by setting up hundreds of international call centres in Lahore. Hall Road is regarded as the largest cell phone and computer related market of Pakistan and it has catered a large amount of import earnings of the province. Similarly, Abid Market is credited by some as being the largest electronics market of the region and it provides an outlet to the electronic manufacturers of Pakistan. Likewise, Azam Cloth Market, as indicated by the name, is largest fabric selling market of Pakistan. It provides an outlet to the textile industry of Pakistan which has been hampered and severely damaged by electricity failures and lack of facilities.

The astonishing thing about Lahore is that even the markets here reflect the unique identity of Lahore. Lahore has developed and grown in such a spectacular fashion that it is no less than any urban centre of the world. What once started with the nostalgic Mall Road of Lahore has now come to flagship stores, international brands, multinational outlets, food-chains and modern state of the art shopping malls. The development and growth of Lahore can be tracked with the help of a brief look at the range of shopping centres Lahore has in operation today and online shopping in lahore trends also growing every day. Lahore has maintained its novelty in every step and its evolution. From the narrow streets filled with shops in walled city to the biggest shopping malls of Lahore, the ingenuity and originality of the soul of Lahore has remained intact. We have indeed come a long way from Shah Alam Market to the Fortress Square where shopping has been taken to a new level. Gone are the days when shopping used to be a process of roaming around under the sun and looking for the things you need and ending up either finding an easier alternative or giving up the choice. Fortress Square has given shopping a new dimension. The biggest mall of Lahore offers not just shopping but food, entertainment and fun at the same time. The most innovative step taken by the Fortress Square is organising different events in the mall which had never been done before.

All said, it is for everyone to see that even after every trouble, every hardship, every calamity and every disaster this great country has ever suffered, Lahore is still standing tall like Minar-e-Pakikstan, with its heart as warm as always, welcoming everyone with the same balminess and casting its ancient magic which makes it irresistible to fall in love with this wonderment called Lahore.

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