Friday, January 20, 2006

Lahore, Lahore Hai!

Over the last week or so, I have been reading Bapsi Sidhwa's collection of writings on Lahore : Beloved City.

Given that it was a collection by Sidhwa, I always had high expectations of it. And I have not been disappointed. The book is a delightful collection of historical accounts, personal narrations and fictional stories. The collection is arranged by the Eras that Lahore has seen and one gets to know the ancient city from the times of the Mongol pillagers to the troubled times of Partition.

The historical accounts include writings on the Lahore of Akbar, the Lahore of Ranjeet Singh and of Kipling's Lahore. The writings look at both the glamour, glitz and the fables of the Mughal Lahore and the turbulent history of the city as invaders came and left. The British came to Lahore and we live through the taming of the city. And yet the collection doesn't neglect the romanticism of the city within the thirteen gates, of Anarkali and of Hira Mandi. Every single piece has been tastefully selected and that doubles the worth of the journey.

But it is the writings on the Lahore of the Partition that have truly touched the chords of my heart. The collection from that time period is composed largely of personal accounts and thus lends a very humane touch to the cold 'Partition' of the history books. Not only do the accounts provide a real sense of life to the city, but they also highlight the attachments of many a people to a place they called 'home' as kids or young individuals. These accounts make you question the cruelty of political decisions and how they ended up altering so many lives. At the same time, they highlight the prowess of the political and communal forces that turn neighbours on each other, subordinates on their masters and even family members against one another.

This book is highly recommended to both die-hard lahoris and curious world dwellers. I am not yet through with my encounter with Lahore through this book, but I have already come to cherish my city in ways that I never have before!

P.S. You must read through the excerpt of the book provided by Books and Authors here. :P