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Day 0: A taste of Lahore

April 18, 2013

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Day 0: A taste of Lahore

(Click on images and videos to enlarge)

An interview with the last of the jiyalas

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Intense relations fascinate me. How does a person defy or not follow his/her self-interests and do something selflessly for others? A one-on-one love can still be categorised as self-interest of a kind, but falling in love with a political leader and a party. Wow. That’s just simply mind-blowing.

Saeen Hara calls himself a parwana of Bhutto. He has an abnormal and twisted body, moves with great difficulty and speaking comes even harder for him. He cannot walk without support. Saeen decided to replace a stick with a broken down wheelchair adorned with photos of the two shaheed Bhuttos. So when he goes to the market to do errands for his daughter-in-law, he takes his Bhuttos along.

I spent sometime with Saeen and later with his family, read more about it here.

Saeen-1a

He lives in Mozang, Lahore. Way back, the area was a suburban locality of Lahore with an octroi post; the Central Jail is located nearby. There was an uninhibited mound near here, infested with wasp hives. The area thus, named Bhoondpura. It is now a crowded katchi abadi.

The katchi abadis of Lahore are hardly katchi anymore. They are graded low as building by-laws do not apply here, streets are unplanned and civic services inadequate. The biggest issue here, however, is the ownership of land.

People just start living in places they find suitable for themselves unclaimed by others, mostly situated on the outskirts of city or along the banks of drainage nallahs. They gradually become confident of their possession and invest in building proper houses on these. The structure and the possession, however, remains illegal and they have to frequently grease palms of corrupt functionaries of civic authorities. Land developers who buy land to convert it into formal residential colonies or commercial centers can be more dangerous.

The legal status is the soft belly of the katch abadi dwellers. It thus, becomes their strongest demand from elected representatives. These are generally densely populated with a lot of voters. Katchi abadis play a great role in urban politics. Every candidate has to count how many of these fall in his/her constituency and never forgets to promise ownership rights.

A talk show live from Jinnah Gardens

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I seldom watch TV and never the talk shows. I don't like cock fights or fights between any animals, including the political ones. They are often more interested in the looks than the content of what defines a debate. But I thoroughly enjoyed an episode of this 'genuinely' live talk show held daily in the early morning hours at the Jinnah Garden.

The group members live in nearby localities that are just next to the old walled city, so they are all pakka Lahoris. There was a variation of staunch Nawaz supporters, die-hard piplias, the Musharraf supporters, Imran fans and the Q-Leaguers; Noon was dominant. There was no moderator and the discussion swayed wildly in all directions – from Bhutto's role in the separation of Bangladesh to who is really responsible for the energy crisis. But the question of the day was whether Musharraf should be tried under Article 6? Revenge, snarled Nawaz! Stay calm and look ahead, argued PPP. How dare you, shouted Q while others booed and jeered.

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Their respective positions were no surprise but what amazed me was the sanity of their behavior. They were friends, fast Lahori friends, and yet their political associations were very divergent. Isn't this a pleasant sign of maturity?

They have learned how to live together, peacefully, enjoying each other’s company, without compromising over their political views. I had thought that this display of political maturity was reserved only to the top leaderships who had not played up their political differences as tribal enmities now, like they used to all through the 1990s.  Did the change climb from the bottom to the leaders or had it trickled down from the top to these workers? I have yet to find it out.

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The talk show was complete with comic breaks, as every now and then loud Lahori-style jokes were cracked. The butt for today was a poor young fellow whose wife had just returned after a five-year long separation. More soothing were, however, the interludes provided by a music-obsessed septuagenarian who sang Rafi and was presented by the group as a walking encyclopedia of songs, singers, composers and musicians from 1970s and older.

The group members come to this beautiful garden for a walk and drop in for some time in this ever going talk show. That's what they told me. I would say that they really just come here to burn the political calories that they had accumulated watching TV talk shows the night before.

The debate of the mute

I have been to a tea stall on Temple Road, Lahore that is a meeting point of people with hearing and speaking disabilities. They gather from far off localities, mostly on weekends to listen and talk to each other. I tried to enter their territory and was welcomed. Like any other place, all they were discussing was politics. This is how it looked:

Video: Rendezvous

And like most Lahoris, they were staunch supporters of the Nawaz-League. Watch what this man said:

Video: Lahor Lahor aye!

Opinions can diverge and debates can heat up. I guess there were also a few supporters of the PPP here and see how one was treated:

Video: PPP my foot