Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sense of the City – Lahore in Bapsi Sidhwa

Bapsi Sidhwa is the author of four novels, including Ice Candy Man (Cracking India in US edition), which was named a New York Times Notable Book in 1991. In the same year, she received the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan's highest national honour in the arts. Born in Karachi and raised in Lahore, she now lives in Houston, Texas.
I've spent most of my time in the city of Lahore, a city of about eight million people.  It forms the geographical location of most of my work, most of my writing. For her, Lahore is an intensely romantic city.  Its ambience lends itself to romance and it arouses an intensity of feeling which craves expression.  Lahore also forms the location of many of the writers' works - they are known as the "pavement pounders" who wandered the streets of Lahore, including Kipling.  And these writers would frequent the tea houses and coffee houses and huddle in each different place with a different set of admirers.
They would write of their relationships which were formed in the tea houses and of their adventures within the city of Lahore.

Landscape of Lahore
Perhaps the most famous in the West is Rudyard Kipling who was an insomniac, and he walked through the old city, which forms the heart of Lahore, and which really took place during the Moghul times.And he narrates his adventures there - most famously in Kim. And the Zam-Zammah, which he talks about - the little British urchin boy sort of climbs onto the gun, the Zam-Zammah. And the gorgeous Badshahi Mosque, the fort, the Shalimar Gardens, all made by the Moghul emperors, are themes that inspire writers and they are locations that writers use.  Of course one of the themes which comes out most frequently and which was started off by the famous short story writer, Manto, involved the tragedies that happened during the partition of India into India and Pakistan when huge migrations took place. Naturally the writer is automatically drawn to the dramatic, and these provided very dramatic moments.

Diversity of Lahore
Lahore, as a very gracious, ancient city, has an ambience which just lends itself to writers.  More than just describe the city with great affection and love, they also talk about the people that a city like that and an atmosphere like that creates. Lahore as a city inspires the arts in all their forms.  Some of the most famous singers have come from Lahore and just the general population seems to be bursting with artistic energy, so that the little motor-scooter rickshaws, the lorries, the trucks, all of them are splashed with decorations and colour. It is a city that inspires painting, song, writing, and of course the literature incorporates all these aspects of the city.  There are so many musharas which go on in Lahore, which are sort of poetic evenings dedicated to various poets, reciting their poetry. These are a very popular form of evening entertainment. Poetry is not distanced from the writer as it is perhaps in the West where poetry is confined to colleges, almost, and schools.  In Lahore it is woven within the fabric of each person's life. In the course of an ordinary conversation people will suddenly recite a couplet from a ghazal or a couplet from a Punjabi poem about legendary romantic characters. But they all lend themselves to a mysticism, an undercurrent of mysticism, and conversations with God.  Allama Iqbal, the most famous poet of the Indian subcontinent, in fact, was inspired to write "shikwa", which is the complaint to God, because of the ambience of Lahore. Just to exist in Lahore is a sort of inspiration. I think each city has its own spirit, and Lahore's spirit is, I think, a creative energy. So it will continue to inspire writers, and people born in Lahore will be writers, just naturally. 

People who read this post also read :


Post a Comment

Please leave your comments!