Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lahore da jawaab nahi!

This appeared in Mumbai Mirror.... 
I am back after a glorious trip, and here are two images taken at the Lahore Lit Fest. The puss in boots is Mehr Tarar, who became notorious as the ''óther woman'' in the Shashi Tharoor - Sunanda Pushkar tragedy.
                      The seductive lure of Lahore…
Inshallah! I am keeping my fingers crossed I’ll be in Lahore when you read this. The Lahore Literary Festival has grown into an important property in a very short time, and may soon rival our very own Jaipur Lit Fest. I jumped at the invitation to participate in its 2014 edition which has attracted several authors from India,including Vikram Seth and Amit Choudhary.  Of course, Pakistani biggies like Mohsin Hamid and Kamila Shamsie will be participating as well . I am looking forward to three sessions (“India a Cultural Conundrum’ being one), and a book signing at Liberty, the largest bookstore in Lahore, where I am sure I’ll be asked a hazaar questions on the controversial Wendy Doniger book. I have been to the Karachi Lit Fest and enjoyed it hugely. I couldn’t make it to last year’s edition much to my disappointment since my visa didn’t reach on time. Now,with less than 24 hours left for our flight to Amritsar ( and then on to that dramatic walk across the Wagah border), I am understandably jittery. The organizers tell me other invitees like Mira Nair have made it across the border smoothly and safely. So, here’s hoping my next column will be a post-Lahore one.
This is my third trip to Lahore .  To me, Lahore is like a veiled houri – full of intrigue, beauty and mystique. Lahore is seriously oomphy. Differences between Lahore and Karachi are a lot like the differences between Delhi and Mumbai. Karachi being a commercially driven port city, the mentality of the people is similar to ours – Dhanda matters. Time is money. People are like worker ants, rushing around from shop to shop, office to office. The level of education here is possibly the highest in Pakistan. One meets well qualified professionals – mainly CAs, bankers, doctors, IT professionals. Most people converse in Sindhi. The city itself isn’t half as pretty as Lahore. It’s more like Mumbai, without Mumbai’s glittering skyline and impressive Sea Link. And, of course, minus Mumbai’s glitz and glamour.
 Aaah – Lahore! Let me put it simply : Lahore is lajawab on many levels. If one leaves those burly, tough looking cops, fierce Generals and oily politicians out of the picture, it’s easy to fall in love with Lahore. It is an extravagantly romantic city. The kind of destination that makes you long for languorous trysts on moonlit nights, clad in flowing  muslin, ittar on the wrist and a poet spouting  flowery verse, with indolent companions greedily feasting on partridge… and compliments. Lahore is a complex and layered city, with incredibly creative people doing incredibly creative things – everyone is a closet shayar. The begums of Lahore are stunningly beautiful and supremely stylish. They seem to float and glide, not walk or stroll. All their ‘adas’ make them irresistibly beguiling. They wear their impeccably cut clothes with enormous elan, while their make - up tricks could give international make- up artists a serious complex.
The rich in Lahore are seriously, seriously rich. They enjoy their wealth with complete insouciance. The decadence of the rich in Lahore takes one back to another era when money spoke an unapologetic language of power and privilege that was understood by all. The men are ahem… unambiguously macho, sharply dressed and effortlessly gallant. If these studied, old-fashioned mannerisms are just an affectation, let’s have some more of  the same!  Everyone speaks  robust Punjabi.  Thinks Punjabi. Lives Punjabi. Extravagance and sho-sha count for everything.  Flashy lifestyles are openly admired -  discretion is reserved for the faint hearted. Doesn’t it all sound soooo Delhi!

Culturally, Lahore can be compared to Istanbul (another favourite destination). It has a vibrant arts scene that encompasses architecture, sculpture, movies, music and literature. As for the legendary cuisine and hospitality, once you have sampled the mutton chops and kebabs of Lahore, you can’t settle for anything less! Like Delhi, the markets are crowded and teeming with locals shoppingand eating at street stalls virtually round the clock. Compared to our steep prices, it’s possible to buy quality fabrics (oh, those amazing cottons!) and designer outfits without spending too much. As mehmaans from across the border, the warmth extended is genuine, and all interactions are unfailingly polite. Lahore is self-indulgent and glorious. Lahore resembles a pampered mistress, while Karachi is the neglected wife. I enjoy both cities . I am lucky. I don’t have to choose!


Pooja Rathore said...

Enjoy your trip to Lahore,and have a great time. Waiting for your column on the same.

Jogeshwar said...

Your article intrigues me more about Lahore and the desire to visit. Is it true the famous punjabi proverb "jisne Lahore nahi vekhya oh jamya hi nahi" (One who hasn't seen Lahore isn't born)?

Sameer Sachdeva said...

Bengali with a punjabi tadka
Nice mixture
Nice words used huge fan of your writing

Abhirami Muthu said...

Puss in pun intended I presume Ms De

Ambika said...

What were the questions raised in India a cultural conundrum? Beyond the mehmannavazi, what do they really think of us?

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Soundar Rajan said...

I well comes your glorious trip....message. but not in any temple visit.I think which that the visiting women's occasion. anyway the great god and goddess may bless you-reunion.

Narendra Yadav said...

Lahore is a great city i like this very much.

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Rajiv Sethi said...

Shobha, I too have great memories of my trip to Lahore last year. They are unmatchable hosts.

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