Archive for July, 2005

Wazir Khan Masjid – Forgotten Colours…

The only photo I was able to snap before the camera decided to shut down on me. ah, some tragedy…

Masjid Wazir Khan was an awe-inducing experience. It carries the majesty of a time where such structures and colours commanded power and stamped strength. The delicacy and the detail were still retained in its walls. I was told that the paints and colour pigments were made from real gems and other mineral stones: The Secret behind unfaded glory of the walls.
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Just thought I’d add some pictures to illustrate what I was saying in my last post. Sorry about the quality. The squatter settlement can be seen in the background of the second picture.

Emaar.jpg

Slum.jpg

Whither Development?

There’s a lot of development planned for Lahore over the course of the next few years. There’s an IMAX cinema under construction where we once had the Doongi ground next to M. M. Alam Road. The Pearl Continental’s planning to add a 60 storey building on the Mall Road, and there have been reports of how the Inner City will have a monorail by the end of 2007.

In Garden Town, near where I live, an Emirates-based company called Emaar is planning a huge commercial complex, complete with cinema, five star hotel, shoppping mall etc. The land where this is being built has been lying empty for years, and was home, about 20 years ago, to a bus depot. The thing is, however, that this land was/is also home to a fairly large squatter settlement. Three months ago, when the land was acquired by Emaar, and when it was found that the Chaudhries were taking a personal interest in the project, all the settlers were evicted. The bulldozers came tearing in overnight and without any due process whatsoever, an entire community was uprooted.

Over the past few weeks, with construction having not yet begun, the settlers have been trickling back in. Living in little more than tents, these people represent the poorest of the poor, with no access to any kind of proper sanitation or electricity. As soon as the rains end, however, and as soon as the honourable Chief Minister is reminded by his little Arab friends that they have a deadline to meet, the bulldozers will be back. This time, however, the community will not return.

The government, however, doesn’t care. Instead of making any attempt whatsoever to actually solve the root problem and help these people, it is content to use its coercive powers to make matters worse. Waxing eloquently on the constitution and private property rights, it continually seeks to protect the interests of the small minority who stand to benefit from projects such as this one. Never mind the fact that property relations in Pakistan, a legacy of the colonial era, have never taken the poor into account. Gloss over the absence of any kind of social saftey net or programme designed to soften the blow for those displaced. The problem is structural, and actually solving it would require a commitment, on the part of the government, to institute reform that would, for once, cater to the majority. Far from doing anything like that, however, there isn’t even any effort to provide for a band-aid, so to speak.

Given the history of the state in Pakistan, this doesn’t come as a surprise at all. What’s really saddening, however, is that noone seems to care. There is no outcry, and there is no protest. What we do see, however, are people in the neighbourhood exulting amidst rising property prices, and rejoicing in the knowledge that an eyesore will be gone.

When the shopping malls and cinemas are finally ready, in all their glittering glory, there will be no thought given to the fact that the land they stand upon was once the last symbolic refuge of a marginalised majority struggling to survive in a system historically designed to be weighted against them. When the McDonald’s wrappers and Coke cans hit the ground, there will be no mention of how the cost of one such meal would have probably been equal to the weekly income of an entire family that had once lived there.

They will be forgotten and ignored, as they always have been.

Shopping malls, IMAX theatres, luxury hotels, and monorails. Designer clothing outlets, fast food franchises, and BMW showrooms. This is development. But for who, and at what cost?

Cash for Comment

City of Milwaukee is one of cities trying to harness the power of blogging. It has been reported that in a new example of cash for comment, the City is paying Erin Leffelman to promote the city and its attractions, all without the need to disclosure the relationship on the site. The USA Today report states that Leffelman is recieving a year

Reflections within the Qila..

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A view within the historical Lahore Qila during my visit this past March.
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Street Hawkers or Pheri Wallas

There was time when women in our society were not used to going out to bazaars for everyday shopping. This developed the culture of street hawkers loaded with everything from fruits and vegetables to jewellery, clothes or even bangles. Everything delivered at your doorstep (a concept of today practised by yesterday’s small entrepreneurs? scrap these fishy multi-nationals!). But that culture is fast dying with our women getting more social and we as a whole getting more liberal everyday. But still in the old areas of Lahore, from Badami Bagh, Old city to all the way Mughalpura or even Saddar, you can spot a Pheri Wall roaming about to sell his goods. Just yesterday as I was riding back to home along canal road, I spotted a small guy selling bangles near one of Dharampura phatak (near this Tomb). Instantly I waved for him and the guy was kind enough to stop for me for a few minutes. (Did I tell you I love bangles?) Loved the name on his rack’s back!

I’d always been uncharacteristically attracted by these Pheri Walla fellows. They do a great job, really. But alas, these fellows are rare to find as our cultural values are fast changing.

Lahore Police – Give us a break!

In a countrywide swoop against extremists nearly 300 people have been detained including clerics. Lahori’s are also witnessing these raids by police and Para-military forces and this has made life really miserable for ordinary Lahoris on the roads. Here in Lahore these days, if you are going home or something on a motorbyke at night (specially after 9:00 PM), wearing a shalwar-kameez (the local dress) and have a beard, you are in big trouble. Last night a junior colleague of mine – who happens to be one of the nicest human beings that I have known – was detained for two hours when he was going home around 10:00 PM. The reason, local police station had to make a specified number of arrests within 24 hours. I am not sure what exactly Lahore police (the Govt of Pakistan to be precise) is trying to achieve here. Lahoris are already sick and tired of all those Police Naka

Two!

hey, we at Lahore would like to welcome two new cities to the metblogging fold – Phoenix and Birmingham. That means we’re 32 cities strong now and still growing? :) whee!

PS – this is the UK Birmingham, not the Alabama one.

It’s Back!

My favourite place to spend a small fortune on food- Cafe Aylanto’s opening up on M.M Alam road again! They’re building a big new place further up in the line, near Chicago Grill! Although I preferred the small, cosy place better (this one looks like it’s going to be big as Freddy’s), take heart me fellow foodies in that it is opening again :D

Lahori Nashta (Breakfast)

No Lahori morning (especially sundays) is complete, if you don’t go out for a typically delicious halwa pori nashta. Halwa pori had always been my favorite while in the city. Somehow, my love for such food grew so much that I literally took 2 km walk everyday along canal to Mughalpura bridge for halwa pori (New Butt Sweets, located in the Mughalpura chowk). A big glass of lassi is a must too. And that too at 5 AM in the morning! It’s just the old lahori way to have nashta so early so you’re ready to stuff yourself again at 12 noon. ;) You can find halwa pori shops in every nook and corner of Lahore; so when the next sunday morning you happen to wake up early, do give halwa pori a try. And it would cost you Rs. 10 only for 2 pori’s!!

Lahori breakfast
Image Courtesy: http://www.bilalrafi.com/gallery/albums/capri/IMG_0167.jpg

Word of caution though; for most people, one or two pori’s are enough but if you go overboard for chatkhara you have to work all that extra ghee out later in the day. So be warned! Else, you might end up with a twisted belly!

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