Stories about Lahore

“Nothing changes here! Pakistan was, is, and will always be the same”

In 2015, I left to pursue my Fulbright scholarship aspiring to conquer the world and change the landscape of research in Pakistan. I have always found the general pessimism that prevails in our country to be severely problematic. For instance, how we as a country lack unity amongst ourselves and can never rise above gender differences, religious discrimination amongst the people and the innate negativity against the government. Two years of Fulbright gave me a whole new perspective on life. I discovered a world where things such as age, race, colour, gender and other such superficial constructs were irrelevant and ...

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From Delhi, with regret: How a postcard from India revived painful, unhealed memories of the Partition

From history textbooks and family accounts, we often hear about the intense emotions and trauma felt by those who were forced to leave their homes behind for a new country during the Partition of British India in 1947. These days, it is hard to truly understand those feelings when we are so far removed from the experience itself. But tangible, everyday artefacts from that era – like a simple letter exchanged between separated friends – can suddenly resurrect those devastating and unhealed memories. That’s precisely what happened when my mother was recently looking through old papers in my grandparents’ home in ...

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The day the heavens shook

March 28, 2004 Azad Kashmir was a world of beauty, splendour, tall mountains and green trees. “Papa! I love Kashmir! Can’t we live here forever,” Jahanara said innocently. Majid only laughed in response. He didn’t want to upset his little daughter by telling her that couldn’t be. Majid was an army officer. He got posted to new cities every two years. So far, Kashmir had been Jahanara’s favourite place. But she was only 11-years-old and had yet to see and explore most of Pakistan. Apart from the breathtaking landscape of Kashmir, Jahanara loved the place because of Afsah. She was the same age as ...

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Reclaiming public space: Can it be a (wo)man’s world, too?

It was a Saturday night when it rained cats and dogs in Lahore. Cool breeze finally taking over the scorching heat made for an excuse to go out and enjoy to the fullest. With such a spectacular change in weather, it was compulsory for my husband and I to drive out into the city around midnight and be amused by the pleasant ambience. Even at that hour, roads were full of traffic. Trees were swirling in the gusty wind. Eateries along the road were jam-packed with people; after all, Lahoris are known to enjoy food like none other. Boys in groups ...

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105 years later, Allama Iqbal’s Shikwa and Jawabe Shikwa are still raising significant existential questions

Kyun ziaan kaar banun, sood framosh rahoon Fikr-e-farda na karun, mahw-e-ghum-e-dosh rahoon Naale bulbul ke sunoon, aur hama tan gosh rahoon Hamnawa, main bhi koi gul hoon ke khamosh rahoon Jurrat aamoz miri taab-e-sakhun hai Mujh ko shikwa Allah se khakam badahan hai mujh ko (Why should I play the part of the loser and refrain from seeking what I can gain? Why shouldn’t I think of the future, instead of mourning the losses of the past? Why should I listen to the woes of the nightingale? My friend, I am not a flower who will remain silent It is truly my poetic ability that gives me the courage ...

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Dear private schools, I am a parent but not an ATM

The Constitution of Pakistan has, via Article 25A, made it mandatory for the government to provide free education to all citizens who cannot afford to go to school otherwise. However, implementation of this clause has never been enforced in letter or spirit, allowing the private sector to take advantage of the growing gap between private and public schools.   Now, be it rich or poor, people from all strata of society are sending their children to private schools irrespective of the teaching standard of such schools. Operating a school has become one of the most profitable businesses in the country, and ...

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Pakistan is ‘Asia’s best kept secret’ – what will it take to reveal it globally?

“The thing about tourism is that the reality of a place is quite different from the mythology of it” – Martin Parr. Pakistan, unfortunately, is a country that has been at the receiving end of such mythology and perception for a good while now, even as things on ground have changed quite drastically over the last few years. According to the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), terror-related incidents have declined 58%, from 2,060 incidents in 2010 to 681 in 2017. These figures are testament to the success of our Army during the massive military operations conducted in the northern areas of ...

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From a “political nobody who would never amount to much” to the prime minister of Pakistan

Twenty-two years ago, did I think this day would ever arrive? That in little more than 10 minutes, a visibly uncomfortable Imran Khan would fumble over difficult Urdu words and take the oath to become Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister? I wish I could say a resounding yes, but I, like so many of his supporters, have seen Imran rise and fall over the years (only to rise again) with exasperation. ‘Surely he will deliver once he reaches his goal’ is how we have comforted ourselves through the many stumbles, U-turns and compromises. Along the way, we have been called cult followers, ...

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Nandita Das does justice to the iconoclastic Manto in a way Sarmad Khoosat could not

Viewing the trailer of Nandita Das’s Manto was a great pleasure, especially since prior to seeing Sarmad Khoosat’s biopic of Saadat Hasan Manto released in 2015, I had not seen its trailer. Comparisons of Das’s version with Khoosat’s trailer will seem inevitable, even much-needed, given what the respective directors and main actors are trying to prove in a short span of less than three minutes, if the trailers are to be believed. Das’s Manto, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, comes across as an iconoclast and a rebel right from the opening scene of the trailer, where Manto is shown to be in ...

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When the old Pakistan was a new Pakistan

Every year as August 14th peeks around the corner, it is tradition to see stories emerge of what is known to be the bloodiest and largest mass migration in history. Similarly, there have been many instances where I have been told the story of my maternal great-grandparents and their journey from India into Pakistan. Before the Partition of 1947, my great-grandparents, Syed Hasan Mian and Syeda Sardar-Bano, resided in Muzzafarnagar, India with their three sons and daughter. Mian, after receiving his degree in law from Aligarh University, was an advocate by profession and the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Provincial General Secretary in the Muslim League. His friendship with Ayub ...

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