Archive for May, 2008

Promoting Lahore on the web

Ever tried googling Lahore and found nothing but the standard wikipedia entry and perhaps some news item related to British Asian terrorists? Sad but true.

To be honest, I gave up hope long ago when I initially attempted to look up Lahore on youtube during my initial enthusiasm for the video sharing site. Little did I know that it would bring up an array of bizarre clips of school girls in a street fight; tacky sing along versions of Lahore Lahore aye; and a somewhat fazed swede-Pakistani girl videoblogging about her recent visit to the city. And not to mention a string of so called lewd dances featured in Lahore Defence Party videos … dare I say it is pure class A trash.


Anyway, the point being that our beloved city is no where portrayed on the internet in a positive and candid light. On my last visit to Lahore, I was set to create a series of video blogs where my aim was to visit old and new Lahore and post/share my creations with friends and family in London. Unfortunately, the events of Dec. 2007 simply ruined all my plans of walking freely around the city. Anyway, I am sure someone will take it up as a task to perhaps create a regular weekly/monthly video link on LMB with tours of old and new Lahore. For instance, we could have a tour of Wazir Khan Mosque one week and a videoblog focussed on a walk through the bustling Liberty Market. For people who don’t exactly possess a Sean Connery voice, then I suggest adding text via subtitles along the video. I am sure there is clever video editing software out there to achieve the desired effect.

Hope this has inspired a few people to put on their creative hats and go and direct/act in a video about Lahore. I enourage you to do so, so that overseas Lahoris like myself don’t have to go through the agony of watching the dancing girls of Defence and that annoying Swede-Paki.


stray reflections

For the last few days I had not been watching too much TV (apart from IPL), given my somewhat busy routine and the facts that:

1) Our local TV has become extremely uninteresting
2) Our local TV tends to over-hype, dramatize, scandalize and criticize every single news event to the last extent known to mankind
3) I prefer internet as a more reliable source of news on Pakistan

But today I sat down for a while to watch a news channel. Three pieces of news one after the other struck me and I will paraphrase them here without commenting on them. It may be business as usual (or life as usual) in our country, but it hasn’t always been like this… or has it?

a) Severe traffic jam in Lahore due to a mass procession in front of Governor’s House. The protestors were carrying 3 corpses of their tribe/community who were killed in a clash. The scenes were very disturbing. Chief Minister Punjab had to come over and negotiate.
b) Similar protest in front of Governor’s house in Quetta on the same day. I have actually forgotten what was this protest about, but probably on some killings as well. As I said, these instances are business as usual now.
c) A tribal clash broke out some days ago on killing of a dog. The rival tribes fought for a few days (killing several people) before the elders were able to sort it out. As a way of punishment, one tribe handed over its 10 young girls to the rival tribe along with 7 lakh rupees.

A few days ago, mob in Karachi burnt a couple of thugs to death on the grounds that police would not be able to get them prosecuted. A few days later mob in Lahore tried to do something similar.

Before that we were trying to figure out why do we have 3000W shortage of electricity leading to 6-8 hours loadshedding per day, not to mention shortage of wheat which is supposed to be the staple food of Pakistan, an agriculture based country.

And before that we were having one new suicide bombing every 6th day in one city or the other.

And before that we were trying to cope with a situation where our GDP growth targets were being revised downwards, while inflation (food, fuel and housing) kept going upwards.

And before that our major problems were 55% illiteracy, utter lack of health facilities outside main cities, serious pollution and frequent violence inside main cities and corruption everywhere around.

Not to mention poverty and lawlessness… the list goes on…

However I don’t blame the present or any of the past governments. The problems that we have are much more deep rooted. One particular regime (whether Mush (1999-2007) or PPP (1988-90, 1993-5) or PML-N (1990-93, 1995-9) cannot be blamed for all this and that. Maybe as a society, we have all failed in doing our bit, or making our contribution towards progress.

After all, when we blame the mob, we forget that in aggregate terms, “we” are the mob. Why don’t we look at things this way… if 55% of Pakistanis are illiterate, mathematically speaking we all are 55% illiterate, no matter what degrees we tend to flaunt among peers and friends… it’s only when we start to realize our duty as citizens (not that of standing in protests and shouting slogans, but that of actually doing something constructive and positive)… only then we will achieve anything.

Cannes Lions and Abby Awards screening

Cannes Lions & Abby Awards Screening

Cannes Lions is the world’s most prestigeous International Advertising Festival held each year at Cannes in France. While Abby Awards are considered to be the Oscars of Indian advertising industry and generally cover the South Asian region including Pakistan too.

Cannes Lions and Abby Awards screening 4

World’s most creative ideas splashed Lahore this year, thanks to the people at Revelation who were responsible for the screening of award winning advertisements from the Cannes Lions and Abby Awards of 2007.

Revelation has been bringning the best of advertisements for screening in Pakistan for the last two years, however, for the people of Lahore, it was for the very first time.

 The event was held at Alhamra Cultural Complex on the Mall yesterday and was well attended by people from marketing, advertising and media factions of the Lahori society. Mekaal, the model was there too!

After a brief wait from the starting time, people started to fill the hall which was almost quarter full throughout. Screening started only after people from Revelation welcomed the participants to the longest commercial break of their lives – almost a two hours journey into the best of creative commercial expression.

Cannes Lions and Abby Awards screening 3 

First there were entries from the Abby Awards showing the best among Indian advertisements for products ranging from Healthcare, FMCGs to Consumer Durables and Property development while representing brands as diverse as Mentos, Hutch, Zee Cinema, Himani Memo Plus, Protex Happy Dent, Titan watches, Lexi pens, Nitco dirt-free tiles, Ponds and Playwin Lottery. Many advertisements were already known to the viewers as they are quite frequently run on Indian TV channels widely watched in Pakistani households. Each one was a masterpiece and many drew rounds of laughter and applause from the audience.

Abbys were immediately followed by Cannes Lions 2007 winners and they were even more enjoyed by the people. These included the ever famous Got Milk campaign, two Coca Cola advertisements (Happiness Factory & GTA), Volkswagon, Levi’s and many more

Cannes Lions & Abby Awards Screening 2 

Though Pakistan’s advertising industry has been improving and progressing through all these years, it is only after watching these Cannes Lions & Abby entries that one wonders how far behind we still are.

This year Pakistan is sending about two dozen entries for the Cannes Lions 2008 which is a far cry from last year’s four or so entries. Let’s hope advertisements of the Telenor (Hum Aap Ki Amaanat Ko…) sorts bring honor and pride to Pakistan

Lahore is growing…in waist lines!

I must admit I always step out from the International Arrivals at the magnificent Lahore Airport with a certain amount of trepidation. The primary reason being that my weight (lack of) always prompts the first piece of dialogue between me and my family/friends. It usually follows a compassionate tone by my family as to the utter lack of care that I must have been subjected to back in London.

The interesting fact is that the subject of my weight-lessness has now become the norm. Apparently, the claim is that I keep on losing weight on each successive trip. Well surely this can’t be true…because if it were, then I wouldn’t be alive writing about all of this. This prompted me to really ponder over the whole weight issue in context of Lahore and it led to some interesting learning.

I am sure you’ll agree that appearance is generally in the eye of the beholder. So while I may be perfectly fit and strong for one person, I might be extremely thin and weak for another. The reality in Lahore tends to be the latter. In my view, this is down to the fact that Lahoris have become so used to seeing bulging waist lines that anyone with non-portruding gut is regarded either ill or abnormal.

On closer analysis, I did notice an abundance of people in the city with high weight levels with respect to their heights. Whilst I didn’t weight all of them (would have made for an interesting conversation though), my naked eye could judge the fact they were well beyond the normal threshold. Some could argue that I am on a fat-bashing campaign here but I am not. I am simply fearing for these people as their weight due mostly due to an over-indulgent lifestyle will lead to serious long term diseases like heart attacks, diabetes and high blood pressure.

So what needs to be done?

For one, we really need to educate people that over eating is unhealthy. Did you know there is scientific evidence to prove that the South Asian population of India and Pakistan are more susceptible to pulmonary diseases than other races. So we should all try to avoid fatty foods and make an effort to include boiled vegetables and fresh fruits in our diets. No health regime is complete without physical exercise. Set a target to walk, jog or if you’re lucky to have access to a sports centre, join a sports team. You will find yourself feeling more energetic at work and less stressed in general.

On a personal note, I have recently taken up cycling after a 15 year gap. Now that I am back on the rode, I can’t imagine why I hadn’t taken up cycling before. Not only am I saving up on petrol but I am also getting fitter with more stamina. Cycling in our part of the world is treated as the domain of either children or servants. It needn’t be…go and change this view.

Lahore Ring Road (LRR) – Just another white elephant?

image474-001.gifFor an idea that was conceived almost 25 years ago, it has certainly taken almost a generation to plan and manage the build of the much touted Lahore Ring Road. From the grand promises of Sheray-Punjab (NS) to the endless modifications under successive regimes, the project has see-sawed between fever-pitched activity and eerily silent machinery on locations.

Regardless of the bullet-pointed benefits of the scheme which we have become accustomed to, the outcome of the protracted construction phase has resulted in Lahore being engulfed in an ever-present dusty atmosphere. Any visitors’ appreciation of the gleaming International Airport is wiped out as soon as one leaves the airport perimeter as clouds of dust from the piles of dug up earth blanket the traffic.

The mind also boggles as to why there has been so little work over the last decade or so the project has been in progress. Just to put things into perspective, a city like London which has an existing infrastructure dating back to Roman times has outlined a complete overhaul and redevelopment of the East end to build a whole 2012 Olympic Village and transport network to support it. I can appreciate that things take a little more time in our part of the world but taking 10 years to complete merely 15km of the originally proposed 75km is just plain unacceptable.

I call on the Project Team, Lahore Municipality and Civic agencies to either roll up their sleeves and work their socks off to complete the project by mid 2009 (still delayed by years) or face public name and shame campaign (not to mention legal accountability) for all persons involved in the city’s biggest sham project to date.

In my view, the whole project ought to be scrapped for a much more extensive and eco-friendly mono-rail service. Yes, I mean the Lahore Rapid Transit System which should be extended to the route of the poorly-managed LRR. This form of public transport will not only help reduce vehicle congestion along all routes but it will also reduce the pollution levels which are threatening people’s health.

As always, your view are always welcome.

Have you spotted one recently?

I am fascinated by the Chameleon. Its ability to change its appearance to fit its surroundings provides this little creature from the lizard family a truly remarkable ability.


I vividly remember the one and only time I spotted one in Lahore. It was a hot summer day and I was walking the grounds of my school. In my stride, I caught a sideways glance at what I thought was an oddly shaped branch. On closer inspection, I realised it was a giant brown chameleon peering at me through those roving eyes. At first I was scared it would simply pounce on me for blowing its cover…!! But I quickly grasped that it was probably more scared of me. So I walked off not realising that the moment would be the last time I would set eyes on one of these magnificent creations of nature.

I am curious to know how many of you in Lahore continue to spot Chameleons in gardens, parks etc. and when was the last time it happened.

A sad homecoming

Hello Lahore! Let me commence with a note of appreciation for Hassan and Co. for welcoming me to the LMB team. It’s great to join the fold :)

Whilst I don’t live in Lahore per se, I do have a very strong bond with my birth place. Since leaving the great city over 8 years ago, I have made every effort to return and explore its past and present. Needless to say, my family and friends provide a constant urge (and reason) for me to return to Lahore. So for my first ever LMB post, I think its apt that I choose one of my overriding memories from my most recent visit in Dec/ Jan 2007-08. Here goes…

Having arrived days following the shocking assasination of Benazir Bhutto, I was struck by the low mood of the nation and indeed how it had negatively impacted the generally boisterous city of Lahore. The whole episode had somehow crept into the very conscience of the people and sucked out their usual optimism.

Having booked my tickets well in advance, I had been looking forward to my Pakistani adventure with ambitions to visit sights and sounds of inner Lahore and meet and greet the ‘real’ Lahoris who crossed my path…gawwalas, drivers, cooks, pan wallas, you name it. On the contrary, I found myself increasingly restricted by constant advice not to drive at night or visit public places. To top it off, the sense-defying ‘loadshedding’ crippled the city and most of my plans to be productive. It was funny how a few days of being in Lahore, my London pragmatism turned initially to frustration and later into helplessness.

Behind the glittery facade of glass offices and neon lights, there was an evident lack of the spirit of Lahore. It was as if the city had decided to disassociate itself from its inhabitants by falling into a deep slumber. Most of my ill-tempered thoughts were directed to the social and educational deprivation of the society. Having an upbringing in a household where a core focus was on high moral values and education, I was a bit disappointed that the so called educated in our society had done nothing but better themselves and line their own and friends pockets. All this at the cost of a crumbling nation whose financial and natural resources cannot sustain the rising needs of the burgeoning population. But some will argue this can be the case with most of the country so how does it relate to Lahore?

Well to answer that question, I think we need to search for the soul of Lahore. If we chart the course of the city and its majority Muslim population through history, it’s little more than a fraction of the centuries when the city stood as a melting pot of culture, religion, education and commerce. Ask any visitor to Lahore about their lasting memories of the city and chances are they would say it was its Mughal architecture, the Royal Gardens or the cross section of religious shrines. In all my life, no one has ever truly praised a post-1947 symbol. So I believe there is a message in all of this. We need to rekindle the soul of the city and transform it back to its rightful place: to be a seat of great learning, architecture, culture and religious and social tolerance. With the right focus, maybe us Lahoris can all act as a beacon of change for the rest of the country to follow.

Energy Conservation, big time?

Huge Saver Bulb

Thunderstorm Times

Lahore witnessed a very heavy thunderstorm here in the city yesterday evening. Although the strength varied through different areas, still it resulted in fallen trees, tore down billboards and caused damages to the electricity grid at many places. 


Lahore rain

Contrary to the ill effects, it brought a much-needed relief from the ever-heating waves of Summer that is now just around the corner.

Lufthansa to resume service from Lahore

Lufhtansa resumes service

Courtesy: DAWN

 Add to that a couple of more airlines including Virgin Atlantic who are in process of starting up their operations to and from Lahore.

 Now more choices to travel to Pakistan’s cultural capital.

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