Lahore – my first love. I usually would catch myself thinking about the famous line said by a well-known singer, Mika Singh or someone way before him saying ‘Jine Lahore nai vekhya, O jamya-e-ni’ (one who has not seen Lahore, has not lived) or about the famous song by Tariq Tafu called ‘Lahore lahore ae’ (Lahore is Lahore).
Now these lines, I never could quite pinpoint to what they referred. Was it the insane history of the city that makes it so special? Or is it the food of the city where you can find something as sophisticated as sushi to a bun kebab (a burger with a plain omelette and shami kebab in it)? Is it the contrast between ancient buildings still preserved since the colonization period to tall modern architecture? Is it the people, who don’t make you feel foreign to the values and traditions? What is it? Or maybe this one line incorporates all things big and small in the city.
Either way, here’s a list of five things that I miss about home which makes Lahore the most interesting and unique place till yet. My city. My home.
The dramatic vibes of the city
You can never ever deny the drama instilled in the city. The scenic long roads take you to a whole new place. I love long drives and Lahore’s long drives are something you can never get tired of. Just play an orchestrated song, and put down the windows and enjoy the city’s embrace! Even the main landmarks make you feel like the protagonist of a movie who’s got life right in front of them. Just go to Badshahi Mosque and listen to the prayer call once and look up to the pigeons flying freely once, and you’ll know what I mean.
Endless weddings and house parties
Never underestimate Lahori parties. May that be a wedding or just a simple get-together. Lahore being the social epicenter with constant tea parties, dance parties and weddings is something you will never get tired of. I really miss the parties at home where we would play live music and listen to live qawalis (a style of music associated with Sufis) in the winter time with a bonfire and bar-b-que fish. The local Rohu fish (part of the carp family) is freshly cut from the fish market and brought home to be marinated in my mom’s special recipe to be fed to the mouths of friends and family waiting for winter to come, just so they can taste the juice tender bar-b-que fish. Between the parties, if there’s a wedding it brings in more madness and fun. We would have dholkis (a wedding event, where we play a kind of two sided drum (Dholak), a folk instrument we play at the occasion of a wedding) and dance practices where as we say at home; ‘every Tom, dick and harry is a Micheal Jackson when it comes to dancing.
I am not not talking just about the local food of Pakistan. Not talking about the chicken tikkas but I am talking about the place. Food business in Lahore has become such an industry, that you will never grow hungry. You will always have variety. Always have fresh food everywhere. But I am not going to talk about the local food, rather talk about the places that serve. Eating Butt’s Mutton Karahi (A curry cooked in tomato sauce) or Waris Nahari (a slow cooked stew mostly containing the shank meat of the beef and the bone marrow of the cow) or Phajjay kePaye (meaning legs in Urdu. A stew which is slowly cooked containing the hoof or trotters of the goat or cow) at 5AM in the morning after a night of endless discussions with family and friends. Lahore is a city where you can really affiliate with the place and make memories with the food. For Lahore’s, food is not just food, it’s a mere experience that changes your life forever.
Winter in Lahore
Winter has always had a special place in my heart. Winter in Lahore is the funnest time of the year. With Christmas coming up (my family celebrates Christmas with a small get-together) and New year, the parties are endless. We have bar-b-ques and bonfires almost every weekend. Elders enjoy the peaceful live music while the youngsters sit alongside with hookah (an oriental tobacco pipe which is smoked). There is laughter and fun and thinking about it now, it is something I miss the most. I miss the long winter nights in the comfort of my family and most of all my friends.
Family plays a huge role in my culture. My parents have been my best friends forever, and I miss them the most everyday. I miss Sunday morning tea sessions with my mother and I miss working on the chores of the house with my dad. I miss randomly going on long drives with my brothers to talk about life and the future. I miss my sister most of all who longs to hug me. She looks up to me in every way. In the way I dress, the way I keep my hair to the most minute details. I miss Friday movie nights where my dad would put up a crazy action movie and we’d be laughing under our breaths. It’s more fun with two extra members now (my nephews) which I long to see.
Home is not a place where you are born. Home is where the heart is and I feel that no matter where I go, Lahore is a place which will always have my heart. I miss the misty smoky smell of the air as much as I hated it when I was there. I miss the annoying traffic which would be a chaos of horns and long hours on the road. I miss all the good and all the bad. Lahore – is my first love and will always be.
Here is one of my favorite videos on my city. It really catches the sentiments attached to the city and you can also look at the clips of Lahore during lockdown when it was at its cleanest and best.