Her Beloved City
By Shoaib Hashmi

There is a persistent legend that someone -- perhaps Dr Aashiq Hussain Batalvi -- called Bazaar Hakimaan, inside Bhati Gate the 'Chelsea' of Lahore, on account of the many noted people including men of letters who lived there. If so this was all a little bit before my time. My own recollections of the place are Faqirs of Faqirkhana Museum and the other houses of the family, and excellent 'pathooras' and other goodies.
I was reminded of this because I was writing to some friends about another locality of Lahore, quite some way from Bhati Gate, and I might as well remind you of it too. As streets go it is not very distinguished, being only about half a mile long, branching off from Queen's Road and meeting up with Jail Road! Don't ask me why we call a fashionable street after a prison. It's like this Irishman who met a pretty girl named Hazel, "Hundreds of Saints to choose from, and they named you after a nut"!
It is called Waris Road, after some British functionary during the Raj; and we try to pretend is named after the Punjabi poet Waris Shah but it doesn't work. For some reason, and for a long while it was a marvelously multi-cultural place.
There were two churches, and the families of the priests lived on the street, along with a sprinkling of Christian households, the Joshuas and the Phailbuses; this last being the Arabic version of 'Phillipus' or Phillip. There were half a dozen Muslim families, curiously all named Hamid. And there were even as many Parsi families like the Coopers and the Hormuzjees and the Bhandaras.
They were gentle folk all. The elder men all wore tweed jackets and smoked pipes, and the young ladies all took piano lessons and rode bicycles. The young one of the Cooper family was the lovely Perin, who went on to teach, and to cherish her passion for theatre, and was such a pillar for so long that eventually Kinnaird the premier women's college built a spanking new amphitheatre, and named it after her!
And the other Parsi family had Bapsi who married and became a Sidhwa and made her mark as she went on to write The Crow Eaters and Ice Candy Man which was made into the film 1947: Earth; and An American Brat which is due to be staged as a play in Houston. Last week she was back in Lahore to introduce her new book Beloved City.
All the old Lahoris were there to meet her and greet her, because the book is a compendium of writings on Lahore, and is dedicated to Parizad, her daughter and a 'quintessential Lahori'! A cursory scan of the contents promises many a cozy read in front of the fire. Among dozens of short pieces are writings from Rudyard Kipling, who lived and worked in Lahore, and three old Lahoris from across the border Pran Nevile, Krishen Khanna the painter and Khushwant Singh the gadfly.
All the poets are there from Iqbal to Madho Lal Hussain and Bulleh Shah who now rests in Kasur, but his Master Shah Inayat has his tomb on the same Queen's Road; and then Habib Jalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who wrote a poem on his way to prison calling Lahore the 'City of Lights'. The only thing Bapsi seems to have missed out is that a thousand years before Faiz, the first known poet of Lahore Masud Saad Salman, also on way to prison, also wrote a paean to Lahore her 'Beloved City'! (Courtesy The News)


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