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
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
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