Unfullfiled Civic Longing

Raza Rumi
Writing for The Friday Times, Pakistan

After Mumbai, I have stopped watching television. I will not participate in the senseless jingoism of the Indo-Pak media industries … most Pakistanis do not want war with India

…Thirty-something, burnt out, and driven by the inane logistics of life, I have forgotten what is it to chill, party or even get a few hours of doing nothing. This is particularly what I miss from my past life – the ability to just laze around without an agenda or multiple alarms.IHaving moved back to Lahore recently, after a long gap, the little village of Lahore has grown beyond control, reminding one of Pitras Bokhari’s remarkable essays on the city that celebrates the innate spirit and timelessness of Lahore with elegant wit.

Since my return to Lahore, my social life has resumed its Lahori normalcy except that I have changed. Alas. I just cannot go to random places and meet the same people over and over again. Life is not just tribes, clans and cliques. This is why Rafay Alam has become a saviour of sorts. A younger muse, Rafay is an enthusiastic urban explorer. Though we have hardly kept our plans consistent let alone punctual, the tours within Lahore have been fantastic. From the Mughal to the Raj eras, I have managed to fathom a lot – the evident and not so apparent tide of change that has engulfed Lahore. The people’s architecture is simply astounding for its social and aesthetic statement. Away from the self-conscious red-brick homes of the elites, and far from the kitsch sold as comfort in the Defence Housing Authority; the Mughalpura and Ghoray Shah areas have some interesting buildings and colours that one would rarely find amid the growing menace of high-rises and hideous sign boards that are thankfully being removed fromthe scene.

It was therefore great to be at my dear friend SA’s birthday bash that was a smallish affair but had an interesting mix of Lahore’s younger intelligentsia. Except that I got into trouble while arguing with a friend over the ethnic riots in the commercial capital of Pakistan. The exchange was heated and more so following the Mumbai attacks and the theories that are floating around as to who actually perpetrated the attacks. I was a little too critical of the liberal chattering classes who are pretty much responsible for the mess to start with. Their prognoses and diagnoses are all off the mark. For instance, when someone said that post-Mumbai, quick attacks were an opportunity for Pakistan to carry out surgical strikes and weed out terror, I nearly banged my head against their woolly wall of delusion. Such distance from reality can only be found in the well heated drawing rooms of Lahore with an odd painting of a Pakistani master hanging above their spurious theorisations. […]