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A trip to the fatherland.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In Lahore, I pretended to be a Lahori. I travelled in an auto rickshaw. I rode on a bike. I boarded a city bus.
As in Delhi, I walked all over the town. I strolled in the Mall Road. I purchased an antique Shakespeare from a second-hand bookstore near Regal Chowk. I had fresh musambi juice at a stall in Hall Road.
I watched people play cricket opposite the Tollinton Market building. I saw a biker waving Pakistan’s flag. I stood outside the now-closed Pak Tea House, a legendary café once frequented by great intellectuals.
Outside the ticket stall at Shahi Quila, I purchased the Rs 10 ticket that is given to Pakistani nationals, and not the Rs 100 ticket for foreigners. Since we were all brown, the man at the counter didn’t take me as an outsider.
At noon, I walked in the shaded corridor of the grand Badshai Masjid and took a siesta in its cool prayer hall.
Later, I had Peepal leaves falling on me in the ground around Minar-e-Pakistan. I then took a rickshaw to Lahore Museum where I ordered Pepsi at the canteen. Next, I attended the 79th martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh at Shadman Chowk.
I also roamed around in the campus of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan’s most prestigious business institute. I hang out with students who dressed, behaved and spoke like the baba-log Stephanians of Delhi University.
While taking photographs on the Mall Road, a cop stopped me and asked for my shinakht (identity). When he discovered that I hold an Indian passport, he asked, “Do you know the trouble between India and Pakistan and still you are so openly taking pictures?” I said, “But I’m your friend.” Satisfied, he let me take his picture.
At night, I passed by Lahore’s lovely canal. As part of the Basant season festivities, it was lit up with decorations. There were giant models of lotus flowers floating on the water. At one point I came across the figures of the whirling dervishes of Maulana Rumi.
In the end, I went to Bhati Gate and paid my haziri at the sufi shrine of Daata Durbar. Its sprawling courtyard had pilgrims sleeping, praying and sitting meditatively. I was among my own people.
Sweet dreams, sir
The trusting cop
Bhagat Singh Zindabad
Life at Tollinton Market
The tower of Badshahi
Badshahi's shaded corridor
That's Shahi Quila
Domestic tourism at the fort
So Bollywood, Shahi Quila
Bored of the ruins, Shahi Quila
Gone with the wind
The second-hand book seller
The LUMS people
Smoking is OK, LUMS
Men at work, Lahore Museum
Waiting for the bus
By the canal side
Maula Mere Maula, Daata Durbar
I love Lahore