Lahore: “City of Literature”

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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شہِر الہور تری رونقیں دائم آباد 
تیری گلیوں كی ہوا كھینچ كے الئی مجھ كو

Lahore : “City of Literature” Waheed Sabir
Jisne Lahore nahi dekha woh janma hi nahin

(shehr e Lahore teri ronaqaiN daaem aabaad

teri galioN ki hawa khainch laee mujh ko)

O city of Lahore! May your splendor be forever…

The winds of your streets have pulled me towards you.

Mehr un Nisa of Qandahar, buried as Noor Jehan, was deeply in love with Lahore. Here is her distich:

الہور را بہ جان برابر خریدہ ایم

جاں دادہ ایم و جن ِت دیگر خریدہ ایم

(Lahore ra be jaan barabar khareedeh eem

jaan dadeh eem o Jannat e deegar khareedeh eem)

Lahore, we have bought in exchange for our lives.

We have given our lives for a new heaven.

Abdul Qadir Hassan comments that Lahore was not only a city of kings, but it was a city of saints too. Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal and Faiz Ahmad Faiz, both moved to Lahore to be buried here.

The same goes for Noor Jehan who is buried near River Ravi.

Krishan Chandar, a very famous short story writer was from Lahore. Educated in FC College, he had to move to India post-partition. He could never get out of the trauma of this forced exile. He talks of Lahore as one talks about one’s long-lost love. He would look at people coming

from Lahore with a sheer sense of missing out. He would lament and ask for the nitty gritty details of the changes in Lahore’s streets, buildings, parks, and markets. In a letter to Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Krishan Chandar writes that my eyes get wet while thinking of Lahore.

Rajinder Singh Bedi, who began his writing career as “Mohsin Lahore” would cry often while remembering Lahore.

A Hameed, who stayed in Burma, would call Lahore his Janam Bhoomi rather than Amritsar. He writes in his books Lahore ki Yadain (Memories of Lahore):

Lahore’s name is a portal for a plethora of mysteries and enchantments. The name itself has a mystery and magic to it. I think Lahore is not just a city but a state of being. It seeps into the heart while strolling the half-lit streets of this city. Once it conquers, one feels that the soul belonged to this city since ever and this is a never-ending relation.

Syed Ahmad Patras Bukhari was also a true lover of Lahore. He wrote a letter to Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum from New York, asking whether “River Ravi still sighs in memory of the Mughals.”

This city captivates her lovers in such a manner that they never find peace elsewhere. Many great writers like Jamnadaas Akhtar, Gopal Mittal and Pran Neville migrated from Lahore post partition but Lahore never left their hearts. Famous poetess Shabnam Shakeel laments Lahore مگر

اس شہِر بےمثال سے آگے نہیں گئے

(Lahore peechay reh gaya ham ba-wafa magar

Is shehr e be-misaal se aagay nahin gae)

Lahore stayed behind, but we the loyal ones

Did not go beyond this unmatched city

Shohrat Bokhari pours his heart out for Lahore in his famous distich:

طو ِر سینا ہو كہ الہور كی گلیاں شہرت

حسن ہر رنگ گریزاں ہے خبردار رہو

(Toor e sina ho keh Lahore ki galliaN Shohrat

Husn har rang gurezaaN hai, khabardar raho)

Be it Mount of Sina or streets of Lahore

Beauty in every form is reluctant, beware.

Indian film actors Praan, Om Prakash, Dev Anand, Yash Chopra and the novelist Bapsi Sidhwa would constantly remember the gatherings of Lahore. It would not be wrong to call Lahore a state of ecstasy. Lahore is a femme fatale for whoever has been forced in to exile out of her, they would lament it like Romeo would lament Juliet. Although Lahore is a city crowded with parks, colleges, inns, dreams etc., but her love for all the incomers and migrants is her greatest attribute.

People who came to learn became the learned. Lahore cared for Mevlana Azad, for the Iqbal of Sialkot. Gave a standing to the matriculation failed Saadat Hassan Manto and Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

Ahmad Shah lived here as Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and a deserted migrant as Intezar Hussain.

Anbala’s Nasir Riaz became Nasir Kazmi here and Montgomery’s Muhammad Muneer was known as Muneer Niazi. Meaning thereby that Dilawar Ali became Meerza Adeeb, Sher Muhammad became Ibn e Insha, Qudsia Chattha became Banu Qudsia, Muhammad Akhtar became Saghar Siddique, Malik Wasif became Wasif Ali Wasif, Abdul Haee became Sahir Ludhianvi, Aurangzeb Khan became Qateel Shifai, Allah Wasai became Noor Jahan, Raghupati Sahaye became Firaaq

Gorakhpoori and Ghulam Mustafa became Sufii Tabassum, all thanks to the charismas of this city.

These and many others, like Mavlana Zafara Ali Khan, Hameed Ahmad Khan, Hafeez Jalandhari, Mavlana Salahuddin Ahmad, Ustaad Daman, Krishan Chandar, Fikr Tonsvi, Kanhaia Laal Kapoor, Ehsaan Danish, Ishfaq Ahmad, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Habib Jalib, and Khursheed Rizvi, whose intellectual and literary greatness is owed to the blessings of this city. This is why UNESCO rightly named Lahore the “City of Literature.”

In 1959, British archaeologists excavated four thousand years old mud cutlery. Similarly, in Muhalla Mulian, 2900 years old artifacts were found. It is the same era when the Harappan Civilization was dying which suggests that Lahore is as old and ancient as the city of Harrapa.

By -Waheed Sabir,

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