This piece of mine appeared in the Hindustan Times yesterday. An accidental piece it was, written on the request of a friend during my recent stopover in Delhi.

Delhi-Lahore hip factor

Be it Khan Market or MM Alam Road,  life for young guns in both Delhi and Lahore is a blend of cafe culture, cool music and retail nirvana

A Pakistani like me who is visiting Delhi cannot help but identify the commonalities between the Indian capital and Lahore. The climate, the predominant Punjabi influence, the urban chaos and indeed the quest for a good life are as shared as the centuries of mixed history.

In Delhi, these ingredients are packaged into a single space, loved and mourned in equal measure, the Khan Market. Its swanky cafes, retail outlets spell out a comfortable sense of the plentiful. A trip to Bahri Booksellers is essential to check on the new, profound and banal book titles. Step out of the book-zone, walk around and you see young men and women holding hands and out to buy a little dose of happiness from the upmarket retail stores. New frames for glasses, an array of pret-a-porter garments and of course cafes where one can lounge while sipping an exotic coffee brew with a fancy cake. Barista is a favourite of mine with its neo-modernity ambiance and an ample variety to select from. If Barista is crowded, one turns to Cafe Turtle. Wi-fi access is available in these places along with soft music and trendy customers, whose snazzy mobile telephones rest silently on clean little tables. Connectivity is another facet of the global search for fulfillment.

In Khan Market cafes, one reminisces about similar haunts in Lahore. The MM Alam Road there is now a bustling venue for stylish cafes and restaurants that are popular hangouts for the youth defying the silly stereotypes of Pakistan. Men and women converse in their designer jeans about the world, quite unaware of the residual violence of the war on terror on the Pak-Afghan border. The Coffee & Tea Company is hugely popular. Another joint, Massom, a pancake lounge, sells mouth-watering desserts with coffee brews and plays cool music as one plunges into leather sofas to chill. Places such as Cafe Zouk, Hobb-Nobbs, Jamin Java continue to lure the hip Lahorites.
Since globalisation’s onslaught on Pakistan, Lahore’s traditional love for eating out has transformed into a fusion culture bonanza. The Hot Spot Cafe, Little Italy, Cafe Aylanto and The Dish have emerged as havens of cross-continental culinary blending. Young women drive alone to meet up with friends at these places; and hordes of teens are seen flocking to the Pizza Huts, McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets.

While the affluent have these arenas, the underclass youth, both in Lahore and Delhi, finds its own recreational spaces in Carom and Snooker clubs, sleazy internet cafes with loads of porn, the weekly trips to parks; and the occasional sojourns to police lock ups. Life goes on. Globalization has something to offer to everyone.

7 Responses to Delhi and Lahore – globalised fads and trends

  1. Manpreet says:

    Did it appear in HT of 2nd June? I could not find it in the online edition I subscribe to.
    Nicely written piece.

  2. Sidhusaaheb says:

    I guess you could draw similar parallels between Chandigarh and Islamabad, perhaps. 🙂

  3. muhammad says:


    I enjoyed your observation of Delhi and Lahore – globalised fads and trends.

    I remember visiting Delhi in 1962 on a college study tour from Dhaka to whole of Pakistan (formerly West Pakistan). I found the atmosphere was pleasantly friendly and cordial in the wake of Chinese triumph over north East Assam. I went for extensive family visit in 1983, but the atmosphere was different, aggressive victor, belligerent triumphal and arrogant.

    A Pakistani like me who was born in Calcutta, visiting that city cannot go with out recognizing the injustices meted to us by not awarding the city to become Pakistan capital. In my view, the demarcation of a boundary line between East and West Bengal was depended on sole answer to a basic question which was hinged on to which State the City of Calcutta should be assigned as was recommended by Bengal legislative Assembly.

    After much discussion, boundary commission was unable to arrive at an agreed view and Cyril RadCliffe gave his own decision on the behest of Indian Congress directive.

    I will be interested to know more about the reasons of failure of Pakistani Leadership when the whole Bengal and Punjab should not have been divided at will by Cyril RadCliffe and whole Calcutta was awarded to India.

    Muhammad Usman

    Ottawa, Canada

  4. mike says:

    GhVeCP hi! how you doin?

  5. Vandana says:

    Muhammad Usman, the undeniable truth of the partition saga is that no boundaries could have been drawn that pleased all players of that tragic game.Hindus were a minority in Lahore but socially and culturally were tied by an umblical cord to that city and the same could be said about many places in Pakistan and Bangladesh.Yet they had to leave all permanently and move to India.Even now there are many in Delhi(where most of the refigees settled) who see the ex- Lahoris and others from across the border as outsiders and people even now advertise in matrimonial columns for their children and g.children,”I XYZ,originally from Sargodha/Sialkot/Lahore/Rawalpindi……” One’s cultural roots are a very complex thing.

    On the other hand those Muslims who left India for the new countries also had the same case of being uprooted and exiled from their roots.After all the British were dividing one inextricably,culturally in-ter linked landmass into seperate countries……….pain,loss and mayhem were guaranteed.

  6. Vandana says:

    Raza,the picture you draw of Delhi and Lahore underscores again the similarities rather than the differences between our two countries/cultures/history etc.
    It would be a dream situation if these coffee gulping youngsters and their less well off counterparts(unburdened by the weight of the tragic past) could move between the two cities openly and easily…..then we might have politicians for the future who can avoid seeing the future totally from the prism of 1947.

  7. Monika says:

    What I find amusing about some Pakistani bloggers and Pakistanis in general in the past 2 -3 years is the tendency to draw similarities between Indians and Pakistanis. This trend has started after Pakistan has earned the title of being a terrorist-state and now all of a sudden Pakistanis feel the need to prove how similar they are to Indians and how ordinary they are. Earlier, all you read was derogatory articles and comments about how different and dark/short/vegetarian/ugly Indians are. Suddenly, we all have become similar. Chapeau! Shameless hypocrisy reigns!

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