Enter the third day of the Mela Chiraghan (Festival of Lights) in Lahore and I decided to pay a visit.
My visit came barely a day after the Lahore park massacre. I needed to block out the images and footage of the blast victims out of my mind.
The festival marked the 428th annual anniversary (Urs) of great Sufi saint Shah Hussain, popularly known as Madhu Lal Hussain, who lived in Lahore in the 16th century.
The police had sealed off all the roads leading to the shrine. There was only one designated spot where doors and metal detectors were installed. It was oddly heartening to see beefed-up security — I was body checked three times.
When I entered the festival, the lack of fear among the crowd was palpable. Children were running around without a care, people from all across the country had come to pay tribute.
The festival also featured a large bonfire at the shrine of Hussain, in which people threw in candles, oils and lit up cotton lamps with the hope that it would fulfill their wishes. The fire was lit for the entire duration of the Urs.
For children, a number of swings and merry-go-rounds offered recreation.
It occurred to me the relevance of what Gautama Buddha had once said,
"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts."
I stuck around there for a while, trying to understand the mystical behaviour of people.
Stopping a few in their tracks, I asked them why they had come after what happened yesterday? This is a crowded place and therefore an attractive target for a terrorist attack, I pointed out.
"We have no fear of these cowards because our belief is strong. We have come here for our saint. Our wishes are fulfilled here which is why we light candles, oil lamps, burn incenses and recite Surah Fateha for him."
A devotee, who had arrived barefoot, said he felt a spiritual connection with Shah Hussain's teachings. "I have been participating in these Urs celebrations for many years. I feel cleansed when I visit the shrine."
Seeing an old lady lighting an oil lamp, I walked up to her and posed the same question. A bit apprehensive of my camera, she nonetheless uttered with a smile:
"Jako rakhe saiyan maar sake na koi"
The one who has God on his side, nobody can hurt that one
As I took a picture of her and turned to walk away, her words brought me a comfort that replaced the fear I had felt only a day ago.