The Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 1 – Lahore of Today
I must say right at the beginning of this effort of recording my observations about life in Lahore that I am not a professional writer; and not at all a historian. However, I am of the view that any one of us who crosses 50 years of age, must write at least one book on his observations about life. I will, therefore, request the readers to consider it an effort from a novice in that spirit; and I will be happy if it triggers others to write their own story.
Remembering and recollecting the time spent in Lahore is a favourite pass time of all Lahoris, whether living in Lahore or not; and whatever their ages. Such memories also includes how cheap it was to live in Lahore 10 to 50 years ago and how good the mutton used to be and delivered at the door step. And that is a common feeling of all those who have spent time in Lahore. So I find it prudent to talk about “Lahore of Today” before I start recording memories of My Lahore. And I hope that what I miss from Lahore’s description, others on the forum will add or correct.
There were times in 50s and 60s when Pakistan had only one city, Karachi. A Mamun of mine living in Karachi said during his visit to Lahore that “Lahore aik bohhhhhhat barra gaon hai; (Lahore is actually a real biggggggggg village)”. I found that out when I visited Karachi somewhere around 1968. Lahore of today has grown to be a real big city; and has overtaken Karachi in every aspect of life; other than not having its own beach. I find a rare fine balance of life in Lahore of today than any other city of Pakistan; and that is what is special about Lahore.
l consider myself privileged for living in Lahore Cantt, the most mature and preserved area of Lahore, still having a link with the old times. When I shifted to the Cantt after my retirement in 2003, it was rather a laid back and somewhat neglected locality. Since then a well thought out plan has been put in place to improve Cantt’s infrastructure and the soft image. The last decade also saw Lahore’s overall road infrastructure developing well ahead of time to meet the coming traffic needs; the underpasses along the canal and flyovers at Thokar Niaz Baig/Minar-e-Pakistan/Ferozepur Road and many others; and the ring road have allowed Lahore to grow in a systematic manner. Commuting has become much easier and one can travel anywhere in Lahore within an hour. I hope the trend of staying ahead of time remains relevant. However, I consider Metro bus corridor a scar across the broad chest of Lahore; I wish it was planned in a better way keeping these buses on left side of the roads saving huge costs. Now that the corridor has been made (and also replicated in Rawalpindi-Islamabad), I am looking for the time when ambulances and fire brigade vehicles will also be allowed to utilize this corridor. One aspect that city planners need to do is to take care of Lahore’s skyline; many new buildings have overshadowed historical landmarks of Lahore like GPO.
Demographically, Lahore has changed a lot since 50s, a logical outcome, I suppose. A large number of people have permanently shifted to Lahore from surrounding towns and cities including Sheikhupura, Faisalabad and Sialkot due to its quality of life. However, very few from Rawalpindi and its surrounding area have chosen Lahore; probably due to comparative weather conditions. And those who could not permanently shift to Lahore due to business or family compulsions, have bought and maintain houses in colonies in Lahore’s suburbs. Due to persistent unrest in Karachi, a larger migration from Karachi to Lahore has set in for the first time; with that a growing trend of street crimes so typical to Karachi. This Karachi-Lahore migration and setting up their businesses is likely to have a long term effect on Lahore’s life.
Thanks initially to DHA and then to Bahria Town for setting a trend for quality gated housing colonies. With that comes the issue of fake societies that have mushroomed around Lahore. The other day, LDA demolished infrastructure of 4 such unauthorized societies; with potential loss to hundreds of investors. Concerned government officials mostly are not bothered about the issue. An unauthorized building on Kalma Chowk was allowed to rise to 14 floors before government ruled that only 7 floors were sanctioned; and then demolished extra 7 floors.
To meet growing demands of education, a large number of schools and colleges and an equally big numbers of tuition centers have also come up in Lahore. Education has become a business in Lahore and the government allows it to go ahead. The government has no control on fees of private schools; and have no plans to curb tuition centers. Resultantly, the standard of teaching and learning is going down drastically. A cousin of mine who is in Canada assisting students in their PhD courses told me that the worst students in his university are those from Pakistan and Bangladesh. We need to take this matter very seriously at the government level and academia. Decentralization of education to provinces is aggravating the situation further.
The Old Lahore has finally found a voice. A growing number of Lahoris are now keen to visit Old Lahore and remain attached with it. In our childhood, we often visited interior city where our relatives lived; but our children and grand children have not been that lucky. Thanks to Kamran Lashari and his workable ideas, restoration work on Old Lahore has gained momentum through active technical support of Nayyar Ali Dada. Lahore now needs a marketing strategy to sell its value. After a ‘conspiracy’ to take basant away from Lahore, Lahore needs to stop being passive and project itself through its heritage.
Traffic management is currently one sour point of Lahore. The rules of the games are simple: (1) If police man is on duty, you stop at the red light; and start advancing 10 seconds before the light turns green; (2) If there is no police man at the crossing, just pass through; if someone hits you, it is his fault. (3) For some, the safest time to pass through the traffic light is when it has turned red for you. The police in turn has evolved their own systems to make money through official patronage. They are no more controlling traffic; they are just challaning those who are taking risks. Of course they are being given their daily challan targets from their officers and in turn getting a share of the generated fund. Sufferers are mostly the poor motorcyclist who can easily be caught for anything and everything; from helmet to indicator light to tripple-swari to stopping ahead of zebra crossing. And the worst part is getting your CNIC/license back from police after depositing fee in the bank. Police is simply ruthless
Lahoris have finally become aware of the need to exercise after what all they eat. Sports and physical fitness is now gaining momentum. The gyms are generally occupied to capacity; and more are needed. However, trend to stay indoor is growing in the younger generation. Parents are too busy to take care of this aspect of their off shoots.
Lahore’s real original or settled population is exposed during Eid and other long holidays; as most of the ‘settlers’ go away to their native areas. Lahore also comes alive during festivities of 14 Aug, 23 Mar, Muharram and Eid Miladun Nabi. Then on Eid-ul-Azha and start of summers, seasonal kasai and AC mechanics mushroom in the city; doing only the essentials, no quality. Poor service quality has become order of the day, you hardly find good quality electricians, plumbers and others. Car workshops are another area to worry about.
Lahore is, however, maintaining its literary activities through Alhamrah Arts Council. Every now and then, some fine performances are seen here. If one keeps a track, a number of occasions are offered by Lahore to relax your mind.
Doing business in Lahore is as difficult as any other place. The best business in Lahore is where you get the money before you sell or provide your services. If it is the other way round, your payments are doomed for ever.
Security environment in Lahore has also changed like any other city in Pakistan; forcing people to think before deciding an outing. Farm houses are providing alternate locations for recreation and family events.
I am sure there are many other aspects of Lahore that could be covered here. What did you really expect from a novice?
Till next Saturday, Khuda Hafiz. I plan to write about Lahore of my childhood and earlier.
With regards,
Iftikhar Siddiqi
Cell: 0300-8490183
Home: 042-36664788


Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 2 – Lahore of 50s & 60
Here is a brief collection of my memories and thoughts about Lahore of my younger years.
I was born on 15 December 1952 at Lady Wellington Hospital; second and the middle son to Safdar Hasan Siddiqi and Farkhanda Begum. Irfan was two years older whereas Salman was four years younger to me. No sisters.
Our family had the privilege to start two localities in Lahore: 1930: Our Nana (maternal grandfather) Khwaja Muhammad Umar, DSP, constructed his house in Lahore near Data Darbar and named the area as Bilal Ganj. 1939: Our Dada (paternal grandfather) Muhammad Abdul Aziz Siddiqi constructed his house off Ferozepur Road near Lahore Canal; and named these as Almaskan and Siddiqi Street. If asked that why did he chose this place, he used to say that it will be the center of Lahore some day. It is practically the center now. When the area was finally developed by LDA as part of New Garden Town Scheme, he arranged it to be named as Abu Bakar Block, New Garden Town. Chughtais followed to the area some years later. I will write about my family in a separate Chapter to highlight the growth of Lahore’s old families.

Lahore of 50s and 60s was a peaceful city with wide gaps between various localities; or we can term Lahore at that time a collection of localities that were to grow in decades to come; probably the right strategy for a city to grow. Lahore could, however, grow only on one side as Ravi blocked the growth on GR Road towards Gujranwala. For example, when our ancestral house, Almaskan, was built off Ferozepur Road in 1939 (in front of area where Qaddafi Stadium is now located), it developed as the only locality between Model Town and Ichhra. Ferozepur Road at that time was a thin dirty road where two buses had to take left wheels off the road to cross each other. After a family gathering on Litton Road, some one asked for a lift to their home and the response was, Kithay; Modal Taun? Model Town was a far flung area at that time.
Lahore weather used to be real cold in winters and real hot in summers. Frost in winter was a regular feature that is no more to be seen in Lahore. Winters have practically shrunk to a period of two months from mid-Nov to mid-Jan. Summers were apparently unending with frequent dust storms. But that brought the joys of eating in Lahore. We had a wide choice both for summers and winters; where poori-halwa and siri-paye were year around specialties. Fish and hareesa were the treats for winter; to be eaten right from the hot plates there at the sale point. Lahoris strictly followed the fish season related to R-months, September to April while hareesa sales traditionally started on 14 Aug and went on till end of March. Summers brought qulfi-falooda, icecream, tarbooz and mangoes. Kulfis were sold in large size thermoses carried by on-foot vendors; and what a taste these had. Another favourite of mine was reyorrian and ghajakk sold by the vendors with a gas lamp on his head board at night. Traditional flexible gajjak was sold from a wooden pole and the vendor made various shapes of animals for the kids. Not to mention Khatais and baqarkhanees will be unfair to Lahore. I still carry the taste of these special goodies of 50s and 60s. However, Lahori cooks and chefs have failed to pass on the flavours and cooking techniques to their next generations; we see that happening to hareesa and das kulche and many other Lahori delicacies.
Sleeping outside in summers or on the roof tops was a norm as there were no threats of thieves and robbers. In Ichhra, we used to sleep in the open verandah with one or two pedestal fans at the ends. And when the rain came at night, and that was frequent, I was always the last to get up in hope that rain will stop. It was fun.
Lahore had its own sets of games and sports. After-school activities included cricket and cycling. Cycles were available on rent on hourly basis and we used to do as much cycling as possible within an hour or till its kuttay failed. One of my cousins, Sohail Yousaf, 47 PMA, 28 Punjab, was an expert cyclist and a master of ‘slow cycling race’; a game in which the winner would be the last one to reach the finish line. I still try and do some cycling whenever I get hold of a cycle. I taught slow cycling to my grandson, Taimoor, and hope he picks up the knack. The governments need to encourage cycling in the country; and to make it safe for cyclists, each city road shall have a dedicated cycle track. I have seen such cycling tracks in China and Holland.
I have had a brush with almost every game played in Lahore at that time; and even gained expertise in playing Dabbian where you used a flatter stone to throw out the pile of empty cigarrete packs out of the circle around the pack. Various brands had different values like Three Castle had better value than K2 pack. Pill Goli, though played in the dirt, required special skills and every one had his own striker. Pill Goli was the Snooker of the poor where you used no queues. Most of us also played Gulli Danda (in some areas of Pakistan, it is called Gilli Danda). Pithu Garam was also a very interesting team game in Lahore; both for home and school. Lattus, made of wood, were another sport; and required expertise. Wire puzzles were another area to master. Whereas I was able to find lattoos in Multan, I have not been able to locate wire puzzles since then. To summarize, Lahoris of 50s and 60s had their own set of games to chose from; and they did.
But what I enjoyed the most at that time was patang bazi. February was the month for the Basant; and the josh of general public used to be worth seeing. The pleasure of kite flying was supplemented by catching a kite that came in to our ‘area of responsibility’. When I visited our old house after my retirement, I was amazed at speed and expertise with which we used to negotiate various roofs and walls for catching the kites. Basant must be revived in Lahore through a movement as due to its closure, Lahore’s tourism value has also been eroded.
Cycling was not restricted to being a sport. I, along with many others, used to cycle to Government College; whenever possible, holding on to rear of a bus as an adventure to cycle at that speed. When I look back, that was quite risky but enjoyable. Aizaz Malik, my colleague in Government College and later in PMA was a frequent cycling partner.
Family gatherings were held frequently and informally visiting other relatives by the family together was a norm. This gave chance for members of all ages to interact with others. In those days, most of the time, one just made a program to visit and left. Most of the time, your hosts were at home.
My earliest childhood memory is of floods of 1955 in River Ravi. My brother and I were visiting our Nani in Bilal Ganj; and had to be evacuated on a cycle by a relative. I remember, when I visited that house after few years, its ground floor rooms had water marks almost 5 feet above ground level.
As I look back, school and college lives were excellent life experiences. I will deal with these educational aspects in a separate chapter. It shall suffice to say at this point that teachers of 50s and 60s were dedicated and devoted to teaching and grooming of their students. We still invite some of teachers to our school gatherings even now.
Religious tolerance was at its peak. Nobody really thought of who the other person was; shia or sunni or any other sect. We did not even know or ask anyone about it. We used to play cricket in a ground in Shah Jamal in front of which lived Sabhia-Santosh; and in heat of summers during Muharram, we would just walk to their house for water or sharbat. No one asked any questions. My father were four brothers; and though we were Sunnis, their names were Yousaf, Safdar, Shabbir and Asghar.
I remember the excitement of 1965 War. We were living on Ferozepur Road at that time and used to go to the main road to see the military convoys moving towards Kasur border. In their enthusiasm, people of the area would bring fruits and eatables and try to hand over the bags to the soldiers,
Newspapers were an essential part of Lahore; neighbours usually exchanged Urdu and English newspapers in the afternoons. In English papers on Sundays, a pen friends page was always there. I started making pen friends in foreign countries and had over a dozen pen friends in various countries including Kenya, Japan, the Netherlands and the US. This supplemented my primary hobby of stamp collecting. Philately was a favourite hobby of many in those times. One of my regular pen friends in Holland was Klass Van Loon. Recently, I searched for him on the net and found that he had also joined the Army; but I could not connect him. One interesting incident of pen friendship times was when I sent a friend’s request in the paper with a female name, my younger brother as my confidant. We received probably 3 letters in the first week but received over 200 letters in a month; including many from PMA cadets.
Lahore’s long summers warranted at least one trip to Murree and people planned such vacations. We also visited Karachi by train couple of times as my mother’s Mamun and Chacha and their families had settled in Karachi ; a long but interesting trip as we took turn to record names of all the stations on the way. We knew which were the stations where there was something special to eat like Khanpur ka khoya.
For journey between cities, train journey was quite comfortable, specially between Lahore and Rawalpindi. For commuting within Lahore, we had a number of options. Lahore Omnibus Service, known as LOS, was a novel concept of city transportation and was frequently used by all. On selected routs, red double decker buses were also available. First floor was the favourite of the young ones; and that too the front row. Model Town Bus Service (MTBS) started from Model Town for various localities in Lahore. Whereas MTBS had rough seats, LOS buses had sponge seats; inviting many children to cut through the leather for the sponge to clean their slates. Gradually those excellent bus services were mismanaged in the public sector and closed down. The LOS bus terminal is still there, waiting for a restart of another such project.
Medical checkups at schools was a regular feature; and contributed to overall health of our generation. This practice needs to be formally revived in current times when children are exposed to many dangerous deseases.
Lahore of 50s and 60s was a city of libraries. We were frequently visiting libraries in schools and colleges. While in Government College, I was member of the British Council on The Mall and the American Center behind Bank Square. Both these institutions had their own libraries and arranged other educational events. I had attended a live broadcast event of a title fight of Muhammad Ali over radio; we taking a break from College to attend the event. It was at the American Center that for the first time I saw a 19-lit water dispenser and could not figure out how it worked. Talking of libraries, I joined PMA in 1971 when I was in B.Sc. 4th year. When I came back to Lahore after retirement, while searching for a book in my father’s library, I came across a 2-volume history book. To my surprise, I had drawn this set of books in 1971 and missed to return these to college. I wrote a letter to the librarian returning the books and asked to let me know the amount of fine that I need to pay as late fee for 32 years. He was kind enough to call and invite me to the college; and since then send me the Ravi year book regularly.
Taleem-o-Tarbeat and Bachon ki Dunya were subscribed for us; that developed our love for reading. I recommend to all parents and grand parents reading this to do subscribe to such magazines for the children.
Tandoors were part of life in Lahore, at times managed by females. Major activity at tandoors was cooking rotees from your own prepared atta. Tandoori daal was one of my favourite dishes and always brought some when I went for getting the rotees done.
We had a reasonable level of liberty of action as kids of 50s and 60s. That gave us initiative and groomed us well for the life ahead.
Radio Cylon was a favourite radio channel for those fond of songs. Every house has a radio or two.
Description of Lahore will not be complete without mentioning Lahore Canal and rush of bathers in summers, Ammunition Depot blast somewhere around 1968, Ravi and Budha Darya and bara dari right in the middle of Ravi.
Please excuse any errors as I do not want to waste time in rechecking what I wrote.
I have yet to decide what will be Chapter 3 about. Happy reading and thinking.
With regards,
Iftikhar Siddiqi

4 Comments Comments on Iftikhar Siddiqi’s article

Very good narration of Lahore of 5os & 60s. Will anxiously wait for your next articles. Like you, I am also a Ravian (1967-71).

What about Lahore in 2017 . Heard they have completed the ring road.


Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 3 – Lahore since 1970s

1970s have been a difficult decade for Pakistan. It was start of 1971 when a group of students at Government College Lahore applied for commission through 49 PMA Long Course; I was one of them. And then came the war that was predicted for some time due to deteriorating situation in East Pakistan. Those selected were finally given an option to either wait for a regular PMA course or join a short service course (1SSC) immediately. We joined PMA in Oct 1971 and the fateful day of surrender came on 16 December 1971 when we were still undergoing training. The worst part was that a political defeat was termed as a military blunder; and playing politics with the POWs went on for 3 long years.
Unlike any other places in Pakistan, Lahore is always on the front line in every war with India due to its location. Like any other war, an emergency was also declared in Lahore in 1971; with system of sirens and trenches. Lahore always took the war seriously; both in terms of safety of trenches and enjoying the dog fight in the air that happened in 1971 war too. Most of the people went in to trenches on every siren; and one person to do that very religiously was my would-be-bride, Feroza! A number of families also left Lahore in search of safer places; Rawalpindi was the most favourite destination. A family, however, left Lahore and reached Peshawar safely; only to be in the house that was destroyed in an air raid.
But like any other place in Pakistan, Lahore was equally affected by the events of 1971; only to suffer more in a way that repatriation of our POWs was undertaken through Wagah border and Lahories were the first ones to hear tales of Indian atrocities towards our prisoners. This had a telling effect on Lahore and its citizens; and changed their attitudes towards Indians; for ever, I suppose. In 1971, thus, Lahore also became the capital of largest province of Pakistan from its position of second largest province.

Immediately after the war was over, Lahore spearheaded the drive for democracy in 1970-71; and saw fiery public meetings at various locations within Lahore. PTV somewhat matured and started producing quality dramas. Many new actors like Roohi Bano, a Ravian, became TV stars. Indians started their propaganda campaign by starting Door Darshan TV from Amritsar and started showing Indian films; and Lahore was on the front line again.

Then Lahore went through its transformation to modernization in all spheres of life; it matured as the capital of the Punjab province and attracted many to permanently settle in Lahore. One started seeing occasional women motorcyclists; probably Durdana Butt was one of the first one to drive a motorcycle on Lahore roads. Then Lahore started another trend; parents started sending their boys abroad for study; rather pushing them lest they may join the Army; it was risky profession, they thought! They did not realize that most of them will never return after they settle in the new environment, specially when they got married and had their own children. And a lot of them went without legal documents; getting married to the American girls and women double their age to get the American nationality. Now after 40 years of these forced migrations, Lahore has many houses, specially in DHA, where the old parents are living alone since their kids decided not to return. Of course there are many parents who also decided to shift with their children to live happily thereafter. Migrations have been part of human history; one way or the other, and we shall not feel bad about it. Then in late 80s and nineties came the trend in Lahore to immigrate to Canada ; if you could arrange 3-5 lacs in your account for few months, there you went. But this time the reason was different; many people went away due to deteriorating security situation for the families. In those days, Lahore was the trend setter; even Karachi followed the Lahore trend. I see those times coming back due to consistently growing maturity of Lahore.
1980s saw the arrival of Motorola mobiles in Pakistan. Instantly, it became a status symbol. In those times, in Lahore, the people with money started boasting about two things: a Motorola and their bypass surgery. Lahore has still not got out of that show-off mentality. You still find people looking for golden cell numbers and paying up to 25,000 or more for a single digit car number through auction. The latest trend is the number plates with Al-Bakistan written on these, through these still carry wording of Punjab and not Bunjab. Lahories, please grow up!
This period also saw the end of many traditional things in Lahore:
Road side performances and tamashay like three men with fully oiled body getting in foot-and-a-half diameter metal ring; stretching a boy from his neck and legs of from 4 feet height to a 6 feet length stretched on a make-shift bed, bakri & bandar ka tamasha, saperay (snake charmers) with their kobras, and many of earlier generations still think that cobras react on the music of the been (flute) and not on the movement; and reechch ka tamasha. I still remember the day; we were in Lahore on leave and asked a reechch wala for the tamasha at Almaskan. After it was over, he asked if someone wants to sit on the reechch; and our younger son Muneeb walked over and sat on the reechch. with others screaming. The new generation of Lahories have no exposure to these simple outdoor entertainments. Indoor activities and overeating with no exercise has produced a group of over weight Lahories. Watch out Lahories!
Kulfies in thermoses and icecream rehrries (carts) gave way to Polka Parlour and Hot Spot.
Tongas were finally restricted to area around the Railway Station and and finally to oblivion. Somwhere in 80s, tongas were allowed in most part of Lahore after they placed a mat for collection of horse waste; an experiment that finally failed. You can now only see horse buggies and camel carts on the Mall for joy rides or for wedding parties. Lahories are always ready for innovations.

Over the decades, Lahories have become gravely superstitious. Growing number of vendors with their cycles on the canal and many other places selling sadka ka gosht for the crows is one odd scene in Lahore. Number of black pieces of cloth hanging underneath cars and one shoe under the rickshaws is also increasing. It is often quoted that a Lahori in Mecca called home to tell his brother that he was not too well and asked him to give a daigg of pulao at data darbar. This superstition is not restricted to any class, it is a all encompassing phenomenon.

Lahories are always on the look out for an outing; a rainy day will take them on a drive and a hot day will take them to the canal road for a swim. Portion of Lahore Canal after Baghbanpura bridge towards Wahga has unofficially become a family beech for Lahories.
Lahore has kept and revived its own land marks; Chauburji is one of these. For a long long time, Chauburji (an ancient building with four pillars) had only three pillars as one had fallen off pillars some time; and Lahore was contended with the situation. It was somewhere in 80s that the fallen pillar was finally reconstructed. Minar-e-Pakistan area has also been improved and maintained over the decades; and provides recreation to many a Lahories. However, one scar still needs to be healed; Walton monument where the migrants form India first landed in 1947. After spending so much of public money on the project, the place is still home to the charsies of Lahore.
Lahore has finally become a city of parks and resorts: ring roads circles have been turned into beatiful gardens. Lahore now needs orchards as it used to have many in and around Lahore. It now needs a green belt to define the formal end of Lahore limits (measure suggested by Col Majid Hussain). Punjab Horticulture department has played a major role in reviving the spirits of Lahore. It has become a role model for other cities to follow.
I retired in 2003 and decided to fall back to Lahore; to spend time with the family. It has been a wonderful and satisfying experience of reliving in Lahore. However, Lahore also has a ‘curse’; you will never have time at your disposal in Lahore. It has so much unseen commitments and engagements to offer that one will hardly have time to think and reflect. Lahore has become a busy and dynamic city over the years. We need to stop its further expansion to keep it manageable. Let us first develop the undeveloped areas of current Lahore before expanding any further. DHA must also stop here; this side of the border!

Lahore has few major issues t handle in times to come:
Reportedly, one out of 4 Lahories is suffering from Hepatitis B or C; and number of heart surgeries and bypasses is increasing. A campaign is needed in Lahore to document Hepatitis through mass blood testing but that may be restricted by Lahories’ superstition. An average Lahorie will prefer to rather die than to get a medical check up for the reason that kee pata kee nakal aay! Hospital waste is another issue; government is not enforcing the law about incinerators. I have seen people sorting syringes and IV tubes with needles from hospital waste dumped on the road sides.

Lahore is oblivious of the fact that its underground water reservoir has depleted to a dangerous limit. Every year WASA has to dig new tube wells to meet the growing water demand. But Lahories and the departments are totally oblivious of their responsibility in this regard. Lahories want their cars freshly washed in the morning and the drivers are unaware of the issue. Once traveling from Lahore to Rawalpindi once, we took a stop at Mian Jee Da Hotal for daal and paratha. A person came and opened full hose and started washing his motorcycle in front of our car. After a minute, I had to get out of the car to stop him from wasting any more water. This is happening in almost every house in Lahore; and most of the houses have more than one cars to wash. Lahore needs to ban hose-washing through a legislation. And to revive our underground water, Lahore needs a plan for water harvesting to recharge the ground water.

I think all these civic issues can only be solved through local government system; Lahore and other cities need to establish the local governments immediately before it is too late to mend.
One group that is spoiling Lahore is the drivers; most of them are untrained, uneducated and loyal to their employer. When alone, they are over speeding and hoking horns and are responsible for most of the accidents. Lahories have no plan for use of their cars; and if there is a driver, he is on the move all the time from pillar to post; from schools to shops. According to a recent report, most cars in Britain are parked 96% of the time — 80% at home and 16% elsewhere. This means that on an average, people in Britain drive only 4% of the time. This is surprising considering the high percentage of people who own cars. (WiseGeek) It will be anyone’s guess what will be our average for driving and parking in Lahore.

Beggars in Lahore are here to stay. Our desire to give charity is being exploited by these professional groups; of course there are genuinely deserving people for charity. A growing number of old couples, dumped by their children, can be seen on Lahore roads; begging. According to my observation (and survey) there are families that have shifted to Lahore for the purpose from as far as Khanewal. They have R&D cells that improvise their begging techniques with changing seasons and trends. At least we are researching in some area!

Lahore always lived with picnic spirit with options like Shalamar Gardens, Old Lahore, Wagah border, Zozu water park, Lahore Canal and now Oasis Club on Multan Road (for those who can afford). After a period of total neglect, Lahories have started caring about its valuable heritage. A lot of people are looking for options to see the Old Lahore. This is also reviving Lahore’s economy.

Metro has had a duel impact on Lahore’s culture. Whereas Metro has provided a lot of people from Kasur area to travel to and from Lahore at cheaper fare, it has started another invasion of Lahore with potential to rapidly increasing its population in the long term; putting its civic services under more pressure.
A cousin of mine (born and brought up in Lahore) who is retiring from the Army came to ask my advice about settling in Lahore or Rawalpindi. I have asked him to go and live in Rawalpindi for a month. Will he settle at Lahore or Rawalpindi? Any guesses?
In case you have not read the previous chapters; or want to read again, please follow the links below:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 1:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 2:
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With regards,

Iftikhar Siddiqi


Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 4 – Evolving Trends & Culture of Lahore
I have stayed in Rawalpindi for entire past week; staying with my son and his family (Jahanzeb, Alina, Taimoor & Zynah) at old Cobb Lines, now Qasim Lines near Qasim Market. Did I miss Lahore all this time? Yes I did; also since Feroza was also away to Quetta to welcome Bilal, our youngest grandson (nawasa) born to Mehreen & Shahryar on 3 May 2015. About staying out of Lahore, I am reminded of my grandfather, Muhammad Abdul Aziz Siddiqi, who once decided to go and stay with his youngest son, Lt Col Shabbir Hussain Siddiqi, Engrs at Risalpur. It was after his first night out of Lahore that he traveled back in spite of all efforts and convincing from my Chacha and his family. Since then, Lahorias (let me use this term from now onwards as Lahories does not really convey the right spirit) have become stronger and can temporarily stay for a week out of Lahore; and permanently stay out of Lahore for a year like Col Buttar’s brother who shifted back to Lahore. What is pulling Lahorias back to Lahore in spite of all the ‘negative’ changes that we think Lahore has gone through in the past decades; for better or for worst?

I have come to the conclusion that Lahore is a dynamic city evolving all the time; absorbing people, ideas, trends and values; and thus, evolving a new culture all the time. Lahore is not like other cities and towns that have become stegnant in their growth and are stuck with lifestyle of their past. In fact, these smaller cities and towns have become a source of life for Lahore as these send their best students, businessmen and artists to Lahore that has helped Lahore to grow to its current status and economic strength. It is the same phenomenon that helped the Western societies to grow in quality of life through absorbing immigrants from the East. I will, therefore, touch upon the evolving trends and culture of Lahore over the decades that is evolving a new Lahore that is becoming more attractive to settlers with every passing year. This may take me few weeks before I could conclude this chapter; and therefore, I will cover the subject in sub chapters 4.a. to 4.e.

Health: Lahore used to be a healthy place to live in due to its quality food and activities it offered; also due to its credible heath planning. Illnesses and injuries were never taken seriously both by us and our parents; and clinics of compassionate doctors like Dr. Sharif at Ichhra were present in every locality of Lahore with a dispensary of their own. As a young boy, I was trying to balance my feet on two ends of central shaft of rear wheel of someone’s cycle that, at a bump in the road, my left foot went in to the wheel and peeled off a lot of skin. A simple dressing and its couple of changes were enough to heal within few days though a 3-inch scar is still there on my ankle. Then someone was trying to bring down bair from a beri tree in our house when an oversize stone found my scalp with blood gushing out from the wound; our maid weeping and pouring honey in my open wound; few stitches were enough. We healed our injuries quickly due to our body resistance and simple mixture-medicines given in squarish bottles with marking of one-time khorak to drink. I remember being once sent for some medicine to my Mamun, Lt Col (Dr.) Abdul Rasheed, a WWII veteran and later MS Mayo Hospital; he listened to the problem, wrote down a prescription and asked me to get it prepared from Fazal Din on the Mall. He said that those days (1960s I suppose) doctors did not know how to prescribe a medicine as the pharmaceutical companies had started making inroads to Pakistani market with their antibiotics. Now antibiotics have become order of the day as doctors prescribe these indiscriminately to patients, young and old; which is ruining our immune system. On top of it, people have started self medication that is making the matter worse. In the UK (where my sister-in-law lives, doctors cannot even think of prescribing an antibiotic without a thorough investigation. Thus, like any other place in Pakistan, Lahore needs to get rid of the trend to take excessive medications. Lahorias always treated their illnesses with eating good khorak; and that is what they must do. [Later in our Army life, younger son of one of our friends, Lt Col Naeem, EME, used to threaten his mother that he would take antibiotic if ….]. Our generation owes a lot to health planners of our younger days for ensuring vaccination of of the children. There was an outbreak of small pox in Lahore some time after partition (one of our aunts, Zarina Khala was a victim). We all at school were given vaccine for small pox through a scary procedure. Each child was directed to a table, given a quick pep talk, liquid vaccination was placed at three points on softer skin of inside of forearm through an instrument like a small spoon on a small rod; and the vaccine was drilled in to the skin through a small device fitted on the other end (like a small madhani with sharp small blades) that was swiftly rotated at the points of application of medicine. This vaccination process also helped us in gaining courage in school like boxing in the second term in PMA; and those who cried paid heavily afterwards for being a sissy! Some of these three points later swelled in to big boils and healed in due course of time. Everyone cooperated and no parent ever objected to the practice for any reason as is being done for Polio vaccination. I wonder what will happen if polio vaccination is not completed in time; and will leave a big scar on face of our nation. Then there were BCG vaccinations on our upper arms and most of us still carry the scars. I think we were well vaccinated and had well-cooked simple food at home substituted with lot of fruit and occasional poori-halwa, siri-paya, hareesa and lassi that helped us to maintain our health for a long time. Lahore of today, like other cities in Pakistan, is suffering from poor child health mainly due to lack of vaccinations, poor quality of basic food items, meat and vegetable, water, fast food and lack of exercise. Parents and we grand parents have an important role to play in improving health of our next generation by ensuring vaccination, home-cooked meals most of the time, compulsory one-hobby-one-game policy and sufficient outdoor activities including picnics.

Transport: Lahore of yesterday had a mix of healthy transport. There were limited number of cars and no apprehension in using cycle, tonga, or double-decker bus. Walking was also a routine practice. I remember my Dada walked every Sunday from Almaskan on other side of Lahore Canal to poori-halwa shop at Ichhra for a hearty breakfast and a visit to our house before walking back to his house (at least 4 KM one way). Lahorias who had traveled to Karachi were also fascinated by tram service on Bandar Road; I always wanted Lahore to have its own Tram on the Mall Road. Tonga service in Lahore covered all parts of Lahore with option for a salam tanga; meaning full Tonga at your disposal and no one else would join even if there was available space. I had my first lesson in Einstein’s theory of motion when I was trying to impress the co-riders from my school by standing at rear ramp of tonga without holding the sides; when tonga moved without a warning and a free fall for me. Many families had their own Tongas too; and had many uses. My dada would ask his elder bahus (daughters-in-law) to accompany him in his Tonga to see a possible match for his youngest son. Public transport was frequently used by the younger lot without any apprehensions when LOS and MTBS started their services in Lahore. Now that we have a network of public transport in Lahore, the people prefer to use their cars and motorcycles. One occasionally see in Lahore a family of up to 6 people on motorcycle, taking great risks with live of their children. Lahorias have somehow developed a sense of superiority that is harmful in the long term. In contrast, in Europe and other parts of the developed world, public transport is order of the day. People are using their own transport only for collective family use and for special occasions; and use public transport for work. We need to learn from the Western experience to save on fuel and avoid pollution.

Drinks of Lahore: We often hear talk about quality of food in Lahore and miss out on the drinks of Lahore. While some of drinks will be taken independent of food, there are many which will complement the foods of Lahore; without these the food means nothing. Lahore’s Lassi, for example, is one of the most wanted drink in Lahore. Breakfast of Siri Payas without topping of meethi lassi is half the fun. For some, lassi without perras, makes it the ultimate breakfast. Saltish (namkeen) lassi with dishes like karela-qeema will not be fair with the delicacy. You can find many lassi shops in Lahore through out the year. Talking of seasonal drinks, Satto-Shakkar had lost its clientele due to non availability of quality sattoos but the trend is coming back. Summers also bring special drinks like Kanji and many varieties of sharbats including alubukhara, badam and sandal. Gannay ka ras is the most sought after and affordable drink in Lahore. The best gannay ka ras wala had his outlet inside Qaddafi Stadium for a long time; and now there are at least a dozen outlets along the canal. Of course, let us not forget the good old lemon soda with its tha-tha opening sounds. Lahore is always experimenting with new drinks all the time; and Lahorias are ready to oblige a good outlet.

What’s In a Name: I will end today’s sub-chapter by mentioning another interesting part of Lahore’s culture. Every Lahoria used to have at least two names; one the official name and the second by which he/she was usually known and called within the family and friends; and in the process people did not know real names of people. In 1975, we were required to give names of our first cousins and I had to call my mother to confirm actual names of my Mamun’s children as they were always known by their nicknames. Mostly, original names were twisted in Lahore to make names like Jhaji for Ejaz, Chhooda for Masood, Billa for Bilal; and Lahorias could go to any extent to twist names. Then there were favourite nicknames like munna, kaka, guddu and many others (Kaka was my nickname, and my mother still calls me by this name; and calling my real name only when referring to my in third person; and, just for the record, Feroza also prefers to call me by that name). Lahorias are also known for naming their children after important personalities who visited Lahore; like every second girl was named Farah after Princes Farah Deeba of Iran visited Lahore somewhere in 60s. Some even named their sons as Saddam after he came to limelight. Lahore has come a long way from naming their females by male names like Sardar Bibi, Afzal, Nazir and so on. If you want to know what is in a name, ask a Lahoria.
To be continued ………………..

With regards,
Iftikhar Siddiqi


Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 5 – Evolving Trends & Culture of Lahore
Dear Readers,
Having touched upon health, transport, drinks and naming practices in Lahore in previous chapter; let us move ahead to other aspects of life in Lahore.
Lahore is a city on the rising curve of history; with great potential for improving its standing among the community of cities across the world. Lahore has been a dynamic city with ever improving trends and opportunities; thanks to ‘immigrants’ storming the city since creation of Pakistan and specially since 1971. Lahore has also been a favourite place for foreigners, particularly sikhs who come here to visit their religious places. Religious tourism and event of Basant are two opportunities that Lahore has missed out so far; Basant by over-celebrating the event allowing unethical practices in kite flying like metallic thread; poor planning for religious tourism for Sikhs and Buddhists; and under-selling our Mughal-era cultural heritage. In my view, with a massive restoration effort for just 5 years, followed by right selling of our tourism potential, Lahore can be one of the most sought after tourist destinations in South Asia; substantially improving its economic potential. I think, there is a need for BOT projects or public-private partnerships for restoration of Lahore’s old Mughal glory.
Lahore offers job for everyone that decides to come and work or settle at Lahore. When jobs are insufficient, Lahorias create business opportunities for themselves. Growing population has a large number of young people who are mostly looking for some sort of business opportunities. Lahorias have built in marketing skills and I find lot of potential in them for entrepreneurship.
Weddings in Lahore have always been an occasion to look forward to and enjoy. Diehard Lahorias, being crazy for food, used to even skip a meal to be ready for barat or walema ka khana. Eating used to be highlight of the wedding function where 3 to 4 dishes were a norm. And then Shahbaz Sharif turned the table on them through one-dish law. Lahorias resisted by renaming functions as dinner and family functions, and turned to gated farm houses on Bedian Road to save their tradition of wedding meals. But one-dish policy has finally become part of Lahore’s culture; and Lahorias do not mind the restriction any more; though they do feel bad when attending a wedding function outside Lahore where restrictions are not applied religiosly. During wedding dinners, drivers and servants were always treated through leftovers. However, the trend is changing now; at banquet halls like Qasr-e-Noor, a separate dinner setting is occasionally seen at a separate place for drivers and others.
One dying tradition of Lahore is bhaands entertaining the guests at the weddings as they are rarely seen now. This entertainment on the weddings also worked as an appetizer for Lahorias as they laughed their heart out. Bhaands primarily came at the barat function and one was amazed to see how well informed and prepared they used to be about senior members of the bridegroom’s entourage. If the father-in-law was a bureaucrat, businessman or had military link, they would be ready with relevant jokes cracked in their typical question-answer style with a leather littar. And if the wedding party did not pay them well in time, they started revealing secrets of the wedding party by going in to out-of-bound areas; and soon a chacha or mamun would politely take them away and pay them off. I remember my Chacha, Col Shabbir used to enjoy the bhaand performance so much that his face would turn red due to continuous laughing. The bhaands have now shifted to more paying jobs on TV and are seen on programs like Mazaq Raat.
Lahore is changing in many other ways too. Many people used to go to tailors for sizing for their made-to-order clothes; a trend that has been dented by cheaper stitched clothes that are now available. Khussas have been the most liked shoes of Lahorias. People used to order their Khussas and other shoes according to one’s sizes.
Ladies dress has seen a major change from the olden days. A part of Lahore’s elite ladies class has gone from elegant dresses to abayas. Hijab is now a common dress for majority of women moving out of their houses for work or shopping. Even christian women have started using hijab to merge with the population.
Basant was an event to celebrate, normally on 16 February, birthday of my elder brother, Irfan; it was to celebrate end of winters (basant, pala urrant, it was said). Traditionally after severe winter months that used to last from 15 Nov to 15 Feb, it was a way to get out of the house to enjoy the changing weather. In my younger days, I used to engage in Basant activities from our house in Zaildar Park Ichhra. But when we shifted to Almaskan, we used to go to various family locations in the city like Temple Road, Mela Ram Road and others. Besides the entertainment, Basant provided real economic support to the experts in the field of dor and patang making as entire families used to be engaged in Basant manufacturing industry. One season of Basant was good to survive the family for next 6 months; like as it is said, big fish vendors in Lahore like Sardar do business for just 3 months in Lahore and spend rest of the year in Murree.
Lahore has been a city that offered many opportunities to survive away from resorts like Murree and northern areas. It used to take 8-10 hours to reach Murree and more to Abbottabad and other places. Lahore, thus, had to create its own fun. In addition to road side fun events like men in the rings, bacha jamhoora, majoon sellers and so on; Lahore offered picnic spots like Shalamar Gardens, canal bank and frequent melas around the year. Horse & Cattle was a good event for civil-military relations but was discontinued since 2001. Finally, this year, Lahore finally hosted its Horse & Cattle Show. A new technology was brought to Lahore somewhere in 60s was Sarkarama, a 3-D cinema, and was something out of this world.
Dangals have been frequent events in Lahore. One such fight that I witnessed at Qaddafi Stadium was between Aslam (Jhara) of Pakistan and Anoki of Japan. Anoki was a tall well-built wrestler who moved swiftly in the ring while Jhara was a sluggish lump of meat. The event was well advertsied and stadium was full to capacity in an inner circle. Within first minute of the fight, Anoki got hold of Jhara’s hand and gave it a twist that resulted in dislocating his shoulder; and the fight was over. That day myth of the pehalwans in Lahore was broken for ever.
Watching movies at cinema houses had been a family tradition in Lahore; and it used to be an enjoyable experience. Censorship on films was tight and one could go for films as a family. Abbott Road area was know for its cinema houses (where PTV building is situated on its Empress Road end leading to Lahore Railway Station) though some cinema halls were located near the Mall like Regal Cinema. When English films started their debut in Lahore, Urdu names were always written on the bill boards; for Rayan’s Daughter, Urdu translation was Rehan kee Beti. Many of these cinema houses have now been closed down and converted to plazas and parking lots. One reason is the deteriorating quality of Pakistani films.
Maal Road, as the Lahorias would call it (The Mall, and officially Shahra-e-Quid-e-Azam) is the most famous landmark of Lahore. Majority of landmarks of Lahore are also located on or within half a KM of The Mall. Starting on The Mall from Lower Mall towards Lahore Cantonment and Lahore Airport, one comes across Lahore’s major landmarks that previous few generations have seen and enjoyed. Entering the Mall from the Old City side, landmarks that one comes across within the first KM include Postmaster General Office at the starting point junction, Government College and Punjab University Old Campus, Bhangian Dee Toap in center of The Mall in front of National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore Museum and Punjab Public Library and Tollinton Market. On first traffic crossing on The Mall lies the famous Anarkali. Then comes the first commercial area of Lahore that houses major goldsmith shops and the old Barkat Ali Sari Walay and Neela Gumbad that leads the way to King Edwards Medical College (KE). Then comes the GPO with Bank Square in front of it. From Traffic crossing after GPO, State Bank Building is on the right and road to the left leads to Lakshmi Chowk, Food Street and Mayo Hospital. Lahore High Court Building on the right is followed by The Hall Road and Masjid-e-Shahada, Ferozesons Building and Alfalah Building. It is here that a Zam Zam van used to be parked for decades and supplied sharbats of all types to the Lahorias. This crossing also houses Assembly Hall and Wapda House on the left and Freemason Hall on the right (Freemason Hall is now one of the offices of CM Punjab). And then comes, right across Avari Hotel, the Lahore Zoo that has mesmerized generations of youngsters in Lahore. Then comes the vast Governor’s House on the left and Quid-e-Azam Public Library and Lawrence (Fatima Jinnah) Garden on the right after which comes Atchison College before Lahore Canal. Gymkhana is last landmark after the canal and before Mian Mir bridge after which one enters Lahore Cantonment. Inside Cantt area are Fortress Stadium on the left and Jinnah House and The Mall of Lahore on the right. I have taken time and space to note that The Mall houses major landmarks of Lahore along its 7-KM stretch. Every landmark has its own history; and if one wants to know about Lahore, one needs to spend at least few weekends exploring all these ares of historical value. Everything worthwhile Lahore possesses was built 50-200 years ago at very calculated locations. If I were to decide, I will declare The Mall over the weekends motor-free area from Jinnah House to The Lower Mall where only cycles will be allowed for people to see the history of Lahore. There is no new architectural landmark that Lahore can claim to have created in recent past and need to create awareness among our city planners to focus on this aspect of Lahore.
There was a tradition in Lahore to eat fresh-from-the-trees fruit. Every locality used to have fruit trees like Jamun, lambay shehtoot (black as well as white), small shehtoot of various types and bair. Lahore Cantt used to have mango trees planted along (now non-existent) water channels fed by canal water. Trees were leased out by the government and fruit was sold on the road sides or along the canal by the vendors. One fruit that is almost instinct in Lahore is Sangtara. Few years ago, an old fruit vendor used to bring Sangtara from few trees he had left with. For those who have never had sangtara, it was probably the original orange which could be peeled off very conveniently and had smaller sized fruit inside with very pleasant taste. While sangtara has given way, Strawberry and Cheeku are now grown around Lahore and are available in abundandce in Lahore. Due to mostly smaller housing units, fruit from home grown trees is no more available. Of course farm houses in Lahore have the option and grow fruits like all pomegranate (anaar), grapes and papeeta that grow well in Lahore weather.
Thaggi has been a part of culture in the sub-continent to give livelihood to a select group of people. Lahore had its own share of such expertise and now exists in a changed way. If you find a motorcycle fallen for a second time in front of your house, be sure that it is a trick to fleece money. If someone claims that he can eliminate cockroaches and deemak from your garden and drains for just 500 rupees, it is a fake. They are the dying species thugs of Lahore.
A small refernce to Lahore’s special vendors. Anarkali area used to have a vendor selling combs and else and called allowed, “Baji Kanga lain gee (sounding baji panga lain gee)”. Then another vendor at Qaddafi Stadium was famous for his peculiar way of saying , Paan”.
Lahore Race Club was another place of involvement for a select group of Lahorias that loved to gamble. My Mamun, Khwaja Khurshid Alam, was one of them. On one occasion, having won a race, he called his barber for a good shave, haircut and massage; and was so happy with his life that gave the barber 50 rupees instead of the usual tip 1 rupee. The barber was so flabbergasted that he ran away with his booty leaving behind his tools at the house.
At the end, I must say something about smells of Lahore. I distinctly remember the smell of interior Lahore that I frequently visited during my childhood years. There are two cities in the world that I had a chance to visit had the same smell. Florence in Italy and Chongqing in China smell like Lahore. Florence was still exploring its hidden treasures when I visited there in 1987. And I found, in 2005, Chongqing to be a combination of historical old and new cities like Lahore. I consider both these cities to be the twin cities of Lahore; with Lahore in the center.
In case you have not read the previous chapters; or want to read these again, please follow the links below:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 1:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 2:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 3:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 4.a.:
In case you have a comment or correction to make, please enter your comments.
And if you have liked the Chronicles, share these on your Facebook Timeline.
Iftikhar Siddiqi


Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 6 – Evolving Trends & Culture of Lahore
Why am I enjoying writing about Lahore?

Reading and writing has been in the blood of Lahorias. There used to be great emphasis on hand writing; both Urdu and English; and students and elders regularly went to libraries. Writing letter was a norm; a trend that has almost finished in the middle and upper classes, giving way to Facebook and Twitter. When I started my pen-friendship in school days, I did not realize that I was just following a Lahori tradition. We must remain in line with changing times but I would recommend to all parents and grandparents to help revive the writing skills of our next generations. Letters also help preserve the history as we see many history books consisting of just letters from the famous people including Quid-e-Azam. There has also been trend in the past to write letters to parents and spouses to keep them updated about the current situations or to share views on important family matters with piers and parents.
There was also a trend for male members working outside Lahore to frequently write to their wives from the places of their duty. My grandfather (Dada) served in Indian Railways up to 1947, when he retired. His few letters that I have show real feelings of a husband for his wife. (I will share some of these letters after I translate these from Urdu to English.) It will suffice to share here that each of his letters used to be numbered as it is translated and copied below from one of his letters:
Piyaam (Letter) Number: 11
From: Sanad Pur; 7 April 1925
17 Rajab 38 Time: 2:30 at night
One of the few traditional letter writers I know of is mother of my brother-in-law, Wisam (Mrs. Brig Riaz Ul Karim, AC) who would formally sit down at her desk to regularly write letters till she suffered a stroke few years ago.

Writing books to record one’s thought process and ideas was also a norm; a trend that is also dying though it has become easier to compile one’s work. My father, Late Safdar Hasan Siddiqi, had twelve published book to his credit when he passed away over 6 years ago. He wrote on religion, politics and social sciences; and we managed to publish one of his three unpublished works after his death (The Call of Islam, translated from Urdu by Mr. Tariq Bucha, son of Late Governor Bucha). His website where his other writings can be accessed is: Safdar Hasan Siddiqi | A political and religious scholar (1923-2008)

Safdar Hasan Siddiqi | A political and religious scholar (1923-2008)It is our privilege to place English works of Mr. Safdar Hasan Siddiqi on this website, some of which are still unpublished.

Reading books, novels and magazines was also a regular feature and visits to libraries were frequent. Just reading anything developed reading habit that also helped us studying the course books in schools and colleges. Libraries in Lahore were well maintained and frequently visited; Quid-e-Azam Public Library on The Mall and Punjab Public Library (Behind Lahore Museum) are still a treat to visit. USIS and British Council also maintained well-stocked libraries. My father-in-law, Khawaja Muhammad Aslam, ex Principal Islamia College Civil Lines, remained Patron of Punjab Public Library for a long time after his retirement.

Lahorias are also known for their efforts to innovate. I would like to quote two examples here:

FIRSTLY, Hamid Omar, a student; designed, manufactured and got registered Pakistan’s first ever car in 1967. Car’s chassis was built from angle iron left over from transmission tower construction while metal body was hand built. It had a 200cc rope start pump engine with a cruising speed of 40 mph fitted with Lambretta scooter tyres. This car remained in his regular daily use for over 10 years; and was registered with great difficulty in Lahore in 1968. You can see details of this car at following link: The Red Car – First Pakistani Car

The Red Car – First Pakistani CarThe very first car built & registered in Pakistan. This is the first car ever made and registered in Pakistan. It was designed and built by Hamid Omar in 1967. The …

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SECONDLY, A small factory owner in Lahore in early 70s had bought a Japanse generator set. When it needed some repairs, he was disappointed to find out that there was only one importer of parts for such generators and was very expensive. He pooled some money, went to Japan and made an arrangement for import of used generators, pumps and other machines. He then started refurbishing these machines at an area that he purchased along the Lahore Canal near Mughalpura and started selling these machines with warranties. Today, it is a big name in used machinery.

Now few comments on feedback on Lahore Chronicles from friends:
Advent of stage drama was a good omen for Lahore. Institutions like Government College had open-air theater that helped train educated dram artists. However, stage drama was turned in to cheap comedy shows that are still haunting Lahore’s stage drama and TV.

Cricket and hockey used to be popular sports in schools and colleges. Rowing was also popular in Government College utilizing the adjacent River Ravi. Punjab University created a Boating Club utilizing Lahore Canal passing through its New Campus area but did not pick up steam. Few boats in the canal are now being used by PHA personnel for watering plants and flower beds on sides of the canal using small mobile water pumps.

Lahore is finally turning in to a group of many self-sufficient enclaves; allowing families to live self-sustained life within or close to their own localities. Iqbal Town, Bahria Town and DHA are few to name. Of course, people have to move for work and schools clogging the roads during office and school hours. Canal with its underpasses, The Mall and Ferozepur Road are the three watersheds for Lahore traffic; each of which handles over 3 lac vehicles daily. Can we also utilize Lahore Canal for transportation purposes in times to come? And shouldn’t we be also utilizing restricted Metro road for emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire brigade?

Lastly, I must mention many of Lahore landmarks, which were skipped to be mentioned and are part of Lahore’s present and historical assets:

  1. Tollinton Market; that now stands renovated and used for exhibitions.
  2. Bara Darri located inside River Ravi wide channel; a part of history that is now infrequently visited.
  3. Pak Tea House.
  4. Bano Bazar Chat.
  5. Shah Alam Market ka Sowa Bazar (Gold Market).
  6. Azam Cloth Market.
  7. Masjid Wazir Khan.
  8. Data Ka Darbar.
  9. Shalimar Garden.
  10. Noor Jahan, Asif Jah and Jahangir’s Tombs.
  11. Badshahi Mosque
  12. Shahi Qila.

Lahore will always remember Sir Ganga Ram for his services in developing Lahore. Once an ill-advised action was proposed by someone to rename Ganga Ram Hospital but suggestion was rejected by the then Governor Jilani. We must keep the credit where it lies.

If you have not read the previous chapters of Lahore Chronicles; or want to read these again, please follow the links below:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 1:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 2:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 3:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 4.a.:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 4.b.:
In case you have a comment or correction to make, please do send your comments. And if you have liked the Chronicles, share these on your Facebook Timeline.
Iftikhar Siddiqi


Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 7 – Anatomy of a Lahori
It is said that one has to pay a price for living in Lahore; and that price is the shortage of time at one’s disposal. There is so much to do in Lahore by default that, wherever you may be living within Lahore, at end of the day you will find that some important chores have been left out. Through a combined effects of weather, food, friends, family, job, recreation and thinking; all take their toll. This is a standard phenomenon with all Lahoris. And that is what makes Lahore special.
To understand the spirit of Lahore, one has to go back to its history; at least to its recent history.
Let us have a look at Lahore in June 1947:
According to the 1941 population census, the total population of the Municipality of Lahore was 6,71,659, out of which Muslims constituted a majority of 64.50 per cent. Hindus and Sikhs were major minority groups while small population of Christian, Bhuddhists and Jain also lived in Lahore. In Lahore district, Muslims were 60.62 per cent while Hindus and Sikhs together formed 39.38 per cent of the population. Hindus and Sikhs, however, owned significant property in Lahore and Lahore district. According to 1998 census, 93.9 percent of Lahore’s population is now Muslim.
Partition plan was announced on 3 June 1947 that placed Lahore in Pakistan. This led to further escalation of ongoing violence in Lahore and surrounding areas. Hindus and Sikhs in Lahore never thought that Lahore will not be awarded to India; and had taken little precautions to shift their assets across the border. Though Lahore generally remained peaceful in initial days of partition, it really turned violent when trains bringing in refugees from India were found full of dead bodies. My mother was migrating from Simla at that time where they had lived on 70 The Mall, ancestral house of her paternal grandfather. My grandmother (Nani Amma) later told that when they descended from Simla to Kalka Railway Station for journey to Lahore; train head for broad gauge railway track, a train was ready to leave for Lahore but the railway staff asked for a bribe of Rs. 20 per person to board. My grandmother refused to pay the bribe and had to wait for few more days at the station. Was it the fate as one of the trains in those gruesome days reached Lahore without a single person alive; allowing only the driver to take the ugly message across the border. This ruthless killings by Sikhs and Hinhus finally triggered major violence in Lahore that led to mass migration of 300,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in Lahore at the time of independence. By August 19 (5 days after Pakistan’s Independence) that number had sunk to 10,000, and by the end of the month to just 1,000. Lahore’s Muslim population, thus, was exposed to the experience of violence right at the outset of independence. The stories gradually travelled to the younger ones through the traditional story telling from grandmothers making our generation aware of what happened at the time of independence of Pakistan. (Most of the figures I have quoted here are taken from Wikipedia)
Another gruesome reality of post-independence Lahore was the loot through occupation and allotment of evacuee properties. A large number of Hindu and Sikh properties were occupied by local Lahoris and subsequently allotted to them through fake documentation. Such fake allottees took substantial financial advantage and political power over the migrants when it came to settling down in Pakistan.
Lahore, thus, did not have a good psychological start at the time of independence; both due to a trend to loot and violence. It needed a consistent effort at the hand of its leaders to apply the corrections over the decades to come. Did they succeed in this effort, is the question?
Lahore of today has, however, overcome most of its initial issues through consistent positive attitude of Lahoris. Lahoris have, through concentration on education and good food, built our own lives. In spite of the evils that confront Pakistan today, Lahore has shown the most growth in its human capital; not only for born Lahoris but also who chose and settle at Lahore.
Story telling has been a favourite hobby of our grandmothers; a tradition that is still carrying on as I see my wife creating stories for her grandchildren. This aspect of life in Lahore has been triggering the imagination of Lahoris. In my younger days, we had two story tellers in our family; firstly my grandmother (Nani Amma) who mostly narrated the Quranic stories; and then her younger sister, Taj Khala, who took the young ones on journey to the world of paryaan and jinns. I remember Taj Khala’s stories will not end in one sitting; and we used to go to her place for 2-3 days to conclude the story. Taj Khala later on also wrote a novel, that I could not read.
Lahoris tend to follow traditions; whether it is fasting in the month of Ramzan, celebrating Eid or birthdays, joining a new class at school or any other aspect of life in Lahore. Ramzan’s routine tend to continue without any major change in menus except that a growing number is going for sehri in restaurants like English Tea House.
Our previous generation educated Lahoris were fond of reading and writing; and collecting quotations of the famous and applied the selected virtues in to their daily life. I found a notebook of my father full of such ‘quotable quotes’. Hand writing was one good virtue of the time that also led them to writing.
One young Lahori scribbled down following somewhere in 1960s:
“A Dream
Someone asked me, if I had a choice, what I would like to be. I took a lot of time to think; and then made my decision.
I wished to become a bird who would fly around in the skies; and would dive and climb at will. A bird who would know no restrictions.
I wanted to become a lion to be the strongest on earth. A lion who would enjoy complete freedom of action in its own kingdom.
I wished to be a fish of deep waters who would swim around in the seas and enjoy the underwater beauty of nature.
But then I thought; why shall I wish to become a fish which cannot live out of water, a lion who must stay inside a jungle to survive, or a bird which cannot go above the skies. Why must I wish so?
I thought again. Why should I not try and become a man when God created me as such? A man who would be better than the fish and the bird; who enjoy his swim more than a fish and his flight more than a bird. A man who would be stronger than a lion, for strength is what is there in the heart. A man who would think and act, who would know what he is thinking and what he is doing. A man who would learn from others and teach others too. A man who would understand others. A man who would respect others. A man who would love and also know why. A man who would love all.
I shall try and become a man, no matter where I am and what profession do I adopt. I will be a man who will be stronger than a lion and who will enjoy his swim and the flight.
I wish I become a real man as I am destined to be!”
The above was followed up by following verses in the same time frame:
“An Advice to my Son
Whenever you go, wherever you go
Go always steady and always slow
Do good to all and harm to none
Do, do my son but never show
You may have seeds and piece of land
But unless you try, you never grow
Who have the guts and have courage
They hardly lack and always glow
You ought to trust a few in life
For friend is less and more is foe”
If you have not read the previous chapters of Lahore Chronicles; or want to read these again, please follow the links below:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 1:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 2:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 3:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 4.a.:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 4.b.:
Lahore Chronicles- Chapter 4.c.:
In case you have a comment or correction to make, please do send your comments. And if you have liked the Chronicles, share these on your Facebook Timeline.
With best wishes,
Iftikhar Siddiqi
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Fraz Shafique
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Lee Rhoads
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Lee Rhoads 2nd degree connection2nd Product Development Manager at

Iftikhar Siddiqi thank you for inviting me. I am unable to accept because I already have 35K+ connections. May I suggest that you invite our agent in Japan, Kent Rhoads, and Kent will gladly accept. All the best, Kirk
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Rameez Khan
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Rameez Khan 1st degree connection1st Retired from Home Improvement Business after 45 years

Great! Enjoyed reading about my favorite city in Pakistan. Brought back many good memories. Thanks for your time and effort.!


The Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 8: Educational Institutions of Lahore

The Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 9: Games and sports in Lahore

The Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 10: Eating habits of Lahories

The Lahore Chronicles – Chapter 11: Influence of internal migration on the cculture of Lahore