Lahore is often called the Garden of Mughals because of its rich Mughal heritage. Nothing you will ever see on the media.
Some background on the City that I cut-pasted from Wikipedia that is fairly accurate:
A legend, based on oral traditions, states that Lahore, called Lavapuri (City of Lava in Sanskrit) in ancient times, was founded by Prince Lava,the son of Rama. To this day, the Lahore Fort has a vacant temple dedicated to Lava (also pronounced Loh, hence “Loh-awar” or The Fort of Loh).
Ptolemy, the celebrated astronomer and geographer, mentions in his Geographia a city called Labokla situated on the route between the Indus River and Palibothra, or Pataliputra (Patna) mostly, in a tract of country called Kasperia (Kashmir), described as extending along the rivers Bidastes or Vitasta (Jhelum), Sandabal or Chandra Bhaga (Chenab), and Adris or Iravati (Ravi). This city is more than likely ancient Lahore.
The oldest authentic document about Lahore was written anonymously in 982 and is called Hudud-i-Alam. It was translated into English by Vladimir Fedorovich Minorsky and published in Lahore in 1927. In this document, Lahore is referred to as a small shehr (city) with “impressive temples, large markets and huge orchards.” It refers to “two major markets around which dwellings exist,” and it also mentions “the mud walls that enclose these two dwellings to make it one.” The original document is currently held in the British Museum. Lahore was called by different names throughout history, and to date there is no conclusive evidence as to when it was founded; some historians trace the history of the city as far back as 4000 years ago.
The correct pronunciation: Law-her. not La Whore like some media pronounces it. 🙂
Here is a letter dated October 15th, 2009 that I wrote to some close friends from Lahore:
Letter from Lahore
October 15, 2009
I do not like ice cream. Gelato is not “ice-cream” which I enjoy anywhere, anytime, especially in Florence, Italy. Ice-cream on the other hand, never more than a few spoonfuls—enough to sweeten the mouth. Because they don’t serve “just a spoonful” in New York or anywhere else in the world, I never order any since the rest goes to waste. Even the best and most expensive kind anywhere in the world doesn’t entice me. However, in Lahore, I can eat buckets. I can’t have enough of it. The small shop-owners order the milk from specific areas with special cows which they churn in a special way into this special cream, and then add the flavoring (often from crushed real fruits). It is yum-mm-mee.
Before I continue on about the stay here so far, I apologize for the delayed nature of this letter/email. Despite the accessibility to a fast internet connection at home I have just now gotten around to this update. The first week I was tied up with family and the funeral arrangements, an intense, exhausting process. Moreover, I was assisting my parents with some practical matters. When many major events are packed in a single day, a day can seem like a week; therefore after the first four days here I felt like we had been here for four weeks. This week things have slowed down a bit and we will be departing on Sunday for LA.
I would like to begin by clarifying a few facts: Pakistan is not pronounced pack-is-stan. The “pak” is pronounced more like an Upper East Side New Yorker or a snotty British saying the word “park,” dropping the “r.” It means “pure land” and it is far from the vision that many shed blood to create. Short history: if East Asian Countries were the illegitimate children of British Imperialism, Pakistan was the rebel child that did not care to look for the father: it spat on the freedom granted. Pakistan was carved upon a simple ideology: they were Muslims first, then whatever other ethnicity. My father to this day adheres to this philosophy. He has a very old, traditional Pan-Islamic worldview. Therefore, even now, the Muslims that occupy Pakistan are from Middle-Eastern/Arabian, Iranian, Russian, and even Chinese descent and some only one generation removed. The country is compromised of so many languages and tribes that sometimes it is a surprise that it is indeed one country. However, few years after its creation, the nation was feared as one that would perhaps unite with other Muslim countries to create a Pan-Islamic Republic comprised of several countries. This paranoia (some local political analysts to this day say it is a legitimate concern—after all, imagine if Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the a few others were to unite) has served as an impetus for many wars propagated by others.
State of Political Affairs:
They do not like the US government here (not a surprise) but they respect President Obama; convinced that, deep down, he is a “Muslim”—“has to be—look at his principles and vision.” (That is amusing because awhile ago I read an article which stated that he adheres to many Buddhist principles. I think it is best to conclude that he tries his best to live up to values set forth in various religions, yet not indoctrinated by any). This country is as much “at war” as is felt when living in the United States: oblivious. We hear of bombs being blasted here and there, some near, some far and people are enjoying life. Hard to decipher who the “enemy” is. The fundamentalist Taliban that were once supported by the US for many years are now split into many factions some of which continue to get the local government’s support, others the US government’s, and some even Indian government’s support. The local government itself is splintered into sections due to funding provided by the US government.
I have encountered impoverished people who find their life stripped of any meaning due to extreme poverty so blowing yourself is not a loss to yourself or the family. Others hold the view that if one is to die by American drones he or she might as well go down preemptively. Yet there are others who believe the local government has been “bought” by the US government and therefore it does nothing to prevent the local terrorist attacks (separate from the Taliban). In short, terrorism is a scapegoat for bigger governments to do what they wish. We now use humans as bombs.
The police here are so strict (handing fines for not having helmets if driving a motorcycle to random car checks) that it is appalling how the arms are being smuggled inside through India and Afghanistan.
In my opinion it will get a lot worse before it gets any better for no other reason but because the “enemies” are so undefined. For example, even something like “news” is a weapon. Once upon a time, the media was the source from which to get factual information, now it serves monetary and political interests.
Surprisingly no one in the entire extended family or “community” has brought up the fact that I am still not married. I believe this has less to do with their lack of concern for my future and more to do with the fact that every other person is unhappily married to their significant other. In a society where marriages existed to strengthen and extend families, they now serve as the main source of conflict between couples. And although divorces are becoming more common and acceptable, they are still taboo. If anything, the running joke is that it is a must to marry a “white” man from the States because they “don’t just take care of you—women are more than apt now a days to take care of themselves financially—but they actually participate in a life with you.” I reflect upon the few inter-racial marriages of the women who are with white men from the States or England and it is a sight of envy for others here: the foreign husband is not ordering the tired wife around for an extra spoon of sugar for his tea, despite having observed that she is trying to control one baby around her waist and another who is tugging her leg.
The aforementioned must take into account the exception who is my father’s adopted cousin’s mother-in-law. She was petrified that I am still not married: “Such good features and genes—do something about it, child–maybe the world really is coming to an end.” I just rolled my eyes and wanted to say, “Aunti-gee, even dogs and cats can have babies, I would like to think God made us just a tad different, even if not superior,” but I didn’t. What can I say to a woman whose sons are on the verge of divorces or have second wives without having divorced the previous ones and she is doing all sorts of superstitious rituals around the clock so she can have a grandson (after all, what good are granddaughters); as her sons continue to reproduce one daughter after another without taking any responsibility—“isn’t providing financially enough?”
Due to the original reason of our trip (funeral) thank the Lord my parents do not have to deal with: “We were wondering if someone you know (translation = your single daughter) would be interested in marrying our son/cousin/brother etc.” Not that my parents have ever done anything out of societal or familial pressures, nor is my father the kind of man one could randomly come up and ask such a thing, despite how laid-back and fun-loving he is. He is just not a man you question easily—he is a renaissance man whose presence demands respect, because respect begets respect.
So—dodged that bullet! Phew! 🙂
The City of Gardens:
The city is vibrant as ever despite the pollution. And at least in DHA people are very well off and live in jaw-dropping mansions—nothing you have seen even on MTV Cribs. I am taking quaint pictures of images that one can’t google easily. But how do I capture the most fragrant roses I have ever smelt on this Earth? The Earth truly is not the same everywhere. The flowers are potent with their individual smells and the smell lingers for miles, like stars hanging from a string in an upside-down midnight violet sky. It truly is a beautiful city and most mysterious at dawn and dusk.
The Working Class:
The laborers are the most creative group of individuals I have ever encountered in any country. The man crocheting beads into a shawl is an artist and so is the woodsman who is crafting furniture around the corner, as is the tailor. Watching any of them is watching a breathtaking performance. Without realizing they have turned their poverty into art, barely making enough to live on—but they are more content than the richest for whom they create these goods.
I visited three elementary schools and even sat in on a Provincial Education Taskforce Committee’s Meeting (and will be a silent member assisting them with some much needed legislative reform). What is being taught here in 1st grade to students, children in America learn in 4th grade. I agree with neither methodology. In the States we expect too little from our children and here we expect too much.
It always takes me by surprise the influence of hip hop. Overheard: A says to S—you idiot, Akon knows how it is here because he is Jamaican, more than 50 Cent who is all fake. Did you not see the show on National Geographic where they were showing Jamaica! Or how Jay-Z is the greatest because he created songs with Linken Park, a rock band. Wish these hip hop artists knew the influence they have all over the world. For some kids who can’t afford the labels the artists wear, all they have is the lyrics they hear.
I bought these most stunning earrings from a street vendor from Afghanistan. He said they were imported from Iran-Afghanistan border. I paid $1.50 for them. I know for a fact that a street vendor in NY sells something exactly like this for $22.00. Moreover, a similar pair is $44 at Macy’s in Manhattan. And if Kenneth Cole “buys” the design it is $84.00 at Bloomingdales. The street vendor from Afghanistan was selling at a price on which he could make a profit, so I don’t even want to imagine further profit. All I could think as I touched the earrings was about the woman in a village in Iran or Afghanistan who placed these beads and unique stones around the wiring.
Even if one does not do the mammoth exchange rate, the prices for LOCAL things are HIGH. I mean we all expect American products to be similarly priced in dollars even in developing countries but for local products to have American prices is disturbing! A set of bangles—the high end kind—costs $50 to $100, and that is just the beginning range! And guess what? People can afford them—easily—people who live here–why else would they price them like that!
My father’s acquaintances are surprised that we were raised overseas—how can your family be so humble, expecting rude, obnoxious, ignorant Americans. The typical stereotypes.
They are surprised at my lack of accent and when around town I can code-switch accents and dialects before another blinks. J [(am)Erica, while shopping around, I asked this young boy in the store to assist me with what I was getting made for you. I said, “You see, my friend is a performer so–” and I didn’t finish my sentence because a hush fell throughout the store. All the young boys working there just stared at me and I quickly decoded WRONG translated word. I began again, “You see, my friend is a singer so….” And everyone went back to doing what they were doing and the young boy replied, “Oh, I know exactly what you mean ma’am, here take a look at these pieces!” Forgot the word “performer” had some negative connotations on this side of the globe! Phew. lol]
My younger cousin Ali is dying to visit South Africa so he was ecstatic to learn I had been there several times. He just happens to have an interest in the continent of Africa and it got to the point that I was like I can’t be your google search engine…he wouldn’t stop asking questions. The kids (I say kids—they are not that young—17 to 20) saw pictures of my friends in NY, other parts of the States and South Africa, on my lap top and had many questions and comments:
Why do the Hollywood movies make gangsters black? Why are there so few brown people in the movie industry? Are any of your black friends in gangs? You friend Mary looks like a principal(and she is!!!). Does Londiwe only wear Pink? Hsindy looks like a movie actress! What is the difference between my Korean-American, Chinese-American, Taiwanese-American friends? How come I don’t have a Japanese friend given I have friends from all over? How did my friend Dawn and her husband, who is from Tunisia, meet? What languages are their kids going to speak? Rhonda has cool hair! Is Josh from Tibet? Nandi, from Durban, looks Indian. Was Erica in a movie? Are Ali and Amir really twins? PJ does photography? How come you and Vuyo look like you both share an arm in this picture? Lisa looks really smart, I bet she knows real Chinese!
After an hour of the above (I am not listing the entire exchange—there is more!), I told them I just had the best-est friends ever and to go find some thing else to do. I had to—they wouldn’t stop…
If countries are grown adults, then I would consider this country an embryo—when it grows up it will be magnificent, that is before other special interests, internal and external, do not harm what is inside. For you see, this country was built on an idea, a set of principles as ancient as time that equality through unity, faith, and discipline is indeed possible. But that threatens many. Equality always does.
As for my personal development—I think this quote says it better than I can:
“One must be thrust out of a finished cycle in life, and that leap [is] the most difficult to make–to part with one’s faith, one’s love, when one would prefer to renew the faith and recreate the passion.” However, there is a new beginning in every ending and endings happen every moment.
Hope all is well and do update me too!
In sincere gratitude of your friendship, support, and patience,