For Lahore: A lament with love

Published March 28, 2016
Family members mourn the death of a relative, who was killed in a blast outside a public park in Lahore on March 28, 2016. —AFP
Family members mourn the death of a relative, who was killed in a blast outside a public park in Lahore on March 28, 2016. —AFP

It was at 9:22am on a spring morning in 2008 when I fell in love with Lahore. I remember this moment distinctly because the windows of my dorm room shook with the sound of a suicide blast in downtown Lahore.

It was not the beauty nor the charm of the city which made me fall in love with her. It was the fear — fear of losing her — the most unendurable human fear.

There was a campus life and then there was something sinister happening in the background. Something awful was unfolding drop by drop, threatening the city which had been my companion.

I was not comfortable with that. "This too shall pass," I used to think. I was wrong. Nothing has passed since then; neither the bloodbath nor my love for Lahore. Together, they are a tragedy today.

Also read: Tracking the footprints — All roads lead to South Punjab

The suicide attack in Lahore's Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park posed the cruellest question to me touching the boundaries of an existential query: what should be the reaction? Shall I write a lament?

The question brought me face to face with Theodor Adorno who had famously written shortly after the World War II:

To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.

But then what, if not words, is the way out of this sadness which feels to be eternal in Pakistan now?

If nothing seems to console anymore, can’t we just say that we are sad? Isn’t sadness itself the most substantial thing sometimes? Isn’t it something we, in Lahore, have become used to?

Every city has a heart. Each city possesses memory — it’s the memory which defines a city; it’s the heart which keeps it alive.

The memory of Lahore is fraught with tragedies. Which other city has seen the scars and endured the stigma of the bloody Partition more than Lahore?

Also read: A song for Lahore

It was in Lahore where Manto penned down the words drenched in the blood of Partition.

It was in Lahore where Intizar Hussain gave voice to the generational nostalgia associated with pre-Partition India.

It was in Lahore where writers and poets lamented about the tragedy which seemed to have scarred a whole generation.

The memory of Lahore was written with pain and the city embraced it with unexampled endurance but the heart of Lahore has always been filled with life and hope.

It was in Lahore where Bhagat Singh kissed death, while smiling to an independent future.

It was in Lahore Fort where Hasan Nasir endured the most brutal torture in hope for a more just society.

It was in Lahore where the young dreamers dreamt of revolution and took up the strand of socialism.

It was in Lahore where Habib Jalib walked beside women to protest against the Hudood Ordinance in defiance of the brutal Zia dictatorship.

Also read: A fourth wave of jihad?

The heart of Lahore has always been a bastion of hope and political resistance but there’s a new kind of memory taking shape in Lahore, and in Pakistan in general.

For a third generation growing up in Pakistan since the Partition, that memory has given way to an equally bloody memory of senseless violence — a kind of violence which is being used as an ideological tool and has come to be an end in itself.

Violence is most deadly when it becomes an end in itself. It plucks away children from classrooms and merry-go-rounds without an iota of remorse.

The heart of Lahore is still defiant; the sight of people rushing to hospitals to donate blood for the victims of the attack is a testimony to that.

There could be no better answer to this cowardly violence than the fact that the blood of many Muslims would run through the veins of Christians who were the main target of the suicide attack in Lahore.

The challenge, however, is too momentous this time. The memory is too bleak.

But the heart must put up the fight like never before — this is a battle yet to be fought in defiance of religious radicalism, a new wave of mindless violence in the offing, and an enemy that is both an idea and a human.

This is a fight which can only be won together or else, lost separately. Until the schools in Peshawar are not secure, the parks in Lahore will never be safe.

As for the lament and prayers for Lahore, Shoaib bin Aziz has said it all in a couplet; I would not dare translate it:

Meray Lahore per bhi ik nazar ho
Tera Makkah rahay aabad Maula


Last call
23 Sep 2021

Last call

Times looked good back then. The rupee had risen and the current account deficit had eased. But all was not well in the background
Appeasing terrorists
Updated 22 Sep 2021

Appeasing terrorists

The policy of appeasement has not worked in the past and it certainly will not work now.


23 Sep 2021

Dialogue, at last

SANITY appears to have at last prevailed in the matter of electoral reforms. On Tuesday, at a meeting of National...
AUKUS controversy
Updated 23 Sep 2021

AUKUS controversy

Instead of flexing its military muscle, the Western bloc needs to engage China at the negotiating table.
23 Sep 2021

Provocative act

MAULANA Abdul Aziz appears to relish provoking the state — and getting away with it. For the third time since Aug...
22 Sep 2021

Interest rate hike

THE State Bank’s decision to raise its key interest rate by 25bps to 7.25pc underpins its acceptance of emerging...
PCB chief’s challenge
Updated 22 Sep 2021

PCB chief’s challenge

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has propelled fears of regional insecurity.
22 Sep 2021

No need for secrecy

THE government should not make a mountain out of the Toshakhana molehill. That would only encourage speculation of...