BY FIZZA AYUB KHAWAJA (staff writer)
Anna Sherchand / annasherchand.com
Known as the cultural heart of Pakistan, the city of Lahore has many names: City of Gardens, City of Literature, Paris of the East. Even its shortcomings add to its charm. Whether you live in a modern suburban area or a rural mud house village, the Fajr azan (first call to prayer) is something everyone wakes up to. An hour before the orange and rose hues of dawn touch the inky night sky, the whole city comes to life under the sole banner of worship. As dawn gives birth to a new bright sky, some key commonalities set the tone of the day. The postman whizzes past and flings the newspaper over our gate, we hear the gardener starting to water my father’s beloved patch of cucumbers outside and at sharp 8 AM, we hear the high shrill of of my grandma’s bell calling for her morning kehva (a traditional preparation of green tea).
All these factors are pieces of me and then some more. A selfish part of me wants to seclude all these pieces to myself, while another part of me relishes in sharing these pieces with the rest of my city. Kehva is something almost every Lahori dadi will hold in her frail hand at some point of the day, and the dramatic daily newspaper delivery is practically common to all homes. Where shared culture is like a single umbrella, these small events are what lead to an unspoken kinship.
Taking into account the Lahori culture's brightly decorated umbrella’s focus towards cultural food, the smell of chopped and fried garlic, chilly marinades and milky tea dominates every street. Women and men roam around, clad in the quintessential shalwar kameez, a tradition that has remained alive since the time of the Mughals. The calls of street vendors selling all imaginable items, from flower bracelets to school stationery, can be heard from every marketplace.
In the heart of Lahore, lies the true gem of its cultural royalty: the mammoth and untouched monuments of Mughal architecture, preserved in the whitest marble and deepest brick red. Where foreign tourists are so uncommon, that if found there, they become a source of curiosity for locals themselves. It's almost a selfish solace to say that such a sentient manifestation of our history has stayed hidden, exclusively for us to admire. Regardless, whoever the reader going through the snippets of my city might be, know that Lahoris will always be the best welcoming party in case you ever decide to visit, so if you ever get the chance, do come and see mera Lahore.