Nothing of that sort exists now

1 week ago in Lahore | Tags:

“This used to be the red-light area of Lahore,” I told my friend and ex-colleague, Muhammad Bilal, who had come to Lahore to be the first claimant of the offer that any of my friends who want to visit/tour Lahore can stay at my flat. We were passing through the market of musical instruments near Taxali Gate, the last leg of our heritage walk from Delhi Gate to Lahore Fort.

“Nobody knows when did the sex-trade start here but it is said that initially Mughal children were sent to this neighbourhood for schooling in the social norms,” I continued my tourist guide commentary, “But nothing of that sort exists now. There was, people say, a crackdown a decade or two ago and they had to relocate to other parts of Lahore. Now it’s just this market of musical instruments and a dance school around the corner.”

That’s when someone started walking beside us and said: “Mauj karni ae?”

“Kih?” my friend asked.

“Sohnay piece nein, vakha dene aaN.”

“Teri meharbaani!”

It’s been two years

2 weeks ago in Technology | Tags:

It was the 2nd anniversary of YouTube ban in Pakistan today. Yes, we have come to this that the ban is being counted in years.

I know that you know this but wait for a second and think about it. One of the world’s most popular websites is not accessible in Pakistan without resorting to hacks and tricks. Geez.

In France, they say that ‘it never happens twice without a third time.’ I hope they are wrong. But it’s not the strongest of hopes.

When a poet joins an NGO

2 weeks ago in Life | Tags: ,

A World Without Mass Surveillance is the theme of an article that I have to complete today and I have the lyrics of John Lennon’s Imagine in front of me for reference and inspiration.

This is what happens when a poet joins an NGO.

Awestruck in Lahore

3 weeks ago in Lahore | Tags:

Walking about the streets of Lahore, sometimes just taking a turn can leave you awestruck.

Walled City of Lahore

I’m the Sikh in my class

3 weeks ago in Lahore | Tags: , ,

We study old Lahore—the walled city to be specific—and our class is held at Delhi Gate, on top of the gate actually, on its roof. An attempt by the Walled City of Lahore Authority to make us well-rounded tourist guides, it’s an interesting course. A steady six-week tour of the walled city, a lot of history, and some stories. I’d recommend that you join the next session if you have got the time.

There are thirteen of us: an artist, two teachers, an archeology student, a vagabond zimmidaar, a Cuckoo’s Den attendant, a marketer, a Taazia guardian, a winner of the Lahore food competition (“khaaba-ustad”), an actual tourist guide, a professional photographer, an ex-army officer, and I.

Everyone brings something to the class—in addition to the ever-flowing stream of poetry and jokes. The residents of the walled city share inside info about the various gallian, mohallay, koche, bazaar, kattrian, and, of course, stories. The Taazia guardian is often consulted whenever there’s something related to the Shia tradition; the khaaba-ustad is sought for food; the actual tourist guide about histories.

I, on the other hand, find myself explaining, and sometimes correcting, the names of the Gurus, the institution of Khalsa, the Kirtan, the symbolic significance of the Ks, the nature of Sikh religion (not a “form” of Hinduism), and the fact that the Sikhs are Punjabi people.

I’m the Sikh in my class.

Inside Delhi Gate, Lahore

3 weeks ago in Lahore | Tags:

Inside the Walled City of Lahore, a rickshaw becomes “rashka,” streets turn into bazaars, and strangers are called “paa-jee.”

Inside Delhi Gate, Lahore

White Blood

3 weeks ago in Literature | Tags:

“Listen to them, they tell the truth. The man they speak of did use to take people’s age away. He took six months out of my life in the year of the famine,” clearing his throat to draw attention, a rather old man said to the others at the village sitting.

Hearing this, the two groups who were arguing fell silent. Four to five youth of the village made up one group while the other group consisted of a few elders. The point of discussion was a man from the neighboring village who had died a few years ago. The elders were of the opinion that the deceased used to take away others’ age but the youth couldn’t believe it.

[An excerpt from White Blood, a Punabi short story by Malik Maher Ali; my translation.]

Only thing I like about Defense Day

3 weeks ago in Uncategorized

During the 1965 Indo-Pak war, Noor Jehan sang a song that gives you goose bumps no matter where you are from. The song was: Eh puttar hattaN te nahi vikde. Go ahead, google it, and listen to the audio.

It is still played by Pakistani TV channels every year to commemorate the war and to invoke love for the armed forces.

What not many people notice is how anti-war the lyrics are: These sons [dying in wars] are not sold on shops, what are you looking for in the market?

The half-open window has fallen off

4 weeks ago in Lahore | Tags: , ,

On my first day in this neighborhood, I told you about a house with yellow walls and beautifully-carved blue-colored windows that one can’t help but notice. And that one of the windows remains half open.

On the second day, I learned that it was in fact a Gurdwara, Temple of the Sixth Kingdom, where Bibi KaulaN took the decisive step toward liberation.

Today in the afternoon, when the heavy rainfall stopped for a while, I went out for lunch. Walking down the street, my heart suddenly sank when I looked at the Gurdwara. The half-open window couldn’t handle the storm. Half of it has fallen off.

Writing for the mainstream media

4 weeks ago in Lahore

Writing for the mainstream media (papers and magazines) is a bit tedious for someone like me who is used to writing for himself and for fun. There are rules to be followed and they take time in editing and publishing. It doesn’t get out there instantly the way a blog or facebook post does.

I have this great story from Lahore, truly amazing but untold (at least not in the way I want to) because people are living it and that has made it invisible to them. There are some religious factors too: the puritanism of the Wahabi movement, for instance, is also influencing people: some things are consciously or subconsciously not talked about in the hope that they will disappear for good.

Anyway, here’s to hope that I finish it early and they print it soon.

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