Monday, July 23, 2012

Eateries of Lahore and I

Not for many reasons, my family finally decided to settle in Islamabad, specially its rather friendly weather. But this could not take away my longing and love for Lahore – a city where I was born and grew up as a young man. The nostalgia of those roads, bazaars and places that I once walked thus always takes me back to Lahore every couple of months. And I find myself young again amid friendly and familiar environs. I try to foot the places which were once my usual routes to my school and later the college. I would save on the money given to me as bus fare to eat whatever came my way, and I enjoyed both the walking and eating.

The last weekend again took me back to Lahore to attend wedding of a friend’s daughter. And this gave me yet another opportunity to find out new eateries specific to Lahore. In fact, you don’t have to find places to eat, as every corner of Lahore has some specialty that one cannot resist to devour. For sophisticated and the rich, MM Alam Road in Gulberg has dozens of restaurants offering variety of packages to choose from. Here one can find all sorts of traditional, European and Chinese cuisines prepared to suit the local tastes, beside the much liked burgers by the young. The environment created by some suit the kind of food being served.

As for very indigenous foods, there is no dearth. Mozang, Main Market (Gulberg), Wahdat Road, Gawalmandi, Lakhshami Chowk, Anarkali and Gari Shaoo are some of the areas where hot, spicy and sizzling food is available till very late at night. Cuckoo’s Den near the Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque is yet another place where one can enjoy innovative food, coupled with the view of old Lahore, the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque.

My sons are equally fond of visiting such places with me and enjoy eating the food more or less the Lahori way. Remember, in one of my previous posts, the Lahorites eat KHABAS not merely Khana. You go to someone’s place and you will be entertained with whatever is available in the kitchen. And you would eat as you normally do, probably a little overeating as well. But when you think that all is over, the host would announce, “Let us go out and EAT.” Appalled of this revelation, and despite your pleadings that you had had enough at his place already, you will be taken to any of the areas mentioned above. And when the order would be placed, you would almost turn pale, as no one in his right mindset would be eating all that which would have been just ordered. This is when Khana becomes Khaba. So when going to Lahore, have a heart of a Lahori lest you are caught off guard. And don’t forget to drink a full glass of ice cold “Lassi” after the dinner, in one gulp called “deek” in local language.

This time, after a nice and decent dinner amid pleasant environment of MM Alam Road, I took my family to Wahdat Road for some real stuff. And before I could locate any real place, my sons’ eyes fell on Shahi Pathoorays and I was told to stop. We ordered two plates initially, but then there was no ending. Each plate had two Pathoorays, and we ordered God knows how many. But the crispy fresh from the oven heavily oiled Pathoorays with spicy chickpeas and pickle were heavenly tasty. You have to eat these to know the taste.

Next time, I will take them to Mozang for Qeemay walay Parathay (greasy breads stuffed with minced meat) eaten with curd. And when winters come, I may take them to Garhi Shahoo for one of the best fried fish in Lahore. Just the mention of all this makes me hungry and forces me t go to kitchen to find something for munching. A true Lahori has his appetite never quenched.

Related Reading: Khana, Khaba and Eateries of Lahore

The Double Deckers of Lahore and I

The 1960s was a period of fathomless development taking place in Pakistan. Each organization, institution and government functionary was seen its peak performance during the decade.

The LOS blue and yellow coloured bus [with a tiger monogram] followed by a Double Decker passing on the Mall Road near Regal Chowk
And one of the very efficient and progressive public service was the Lahore Omnibus Service (LOS) with its vast fleet of blue and yellow coloured buses and double deckers. I alog with thousands of school and college students, besides countless ordinary commuters traveled to and from hmes to our schools and colleges six days a week.

Our house situated off the McLeod Road near the once famous Lahore Hotel had two parallel roads: the McLeaod Road and The Nicholson Road. On the McLeaod Road, plied the buses, the famous No.4 that originated from the Railway Station and went upto Gulberg via the Mental Hospital.

The LOS Double Decker crossing GPO crossing on the Mall
The buses and double deckers on Nicholson Road originated from the Pakistan Mint, near the famous Shalimar Bagh, and terminated at Shah Noor Studios. It was these 3 and 19 number buses and double deckers that I along with my brothers took to our school every day. The buses and double deckers took the route from Nicholson road to the Laxmi Chowk, turnning right to Nisbat Road, reaching Gawalmandi and then turning left to cross over Mcleod Road, enter the Hall Road and hit the Mall Road at Regal Chowk. From here the buses turned right, went past infront of Lahore High Court, GPO, Punjab University and the turned right towards Government College. It was here that we disembarked for our school Muslim Model High School and later the Government College.

LOS Double Decker passing in front of the Punjab University Old campus on the Mall
Despite the vast fleet, these buses used to be overcrowded during peak school opening and closing hours and it really required some guts to force one's way into the buses.

Then we also saw the intoduction of double deckers with automatic transmission system, with their silver bodies - the never got painted with the typical blue and yellos colour. Whenver the double deckers changed gears, it did with a jerk and all those standing would fall over each other. 

Alongwith the LOS, there was yet another efficent Model Town Bus Service with its red bodies, that plied between the Model Town and rest of the city.

LOS bus an front of the Punjab Assembly building with the tree line on the right, obscuring the domed pedestal which once housed the statue of Queen Victoria. Later all trees and the statue were removed and was replaced with the monument commemorating the famous 1974 Summit Conference of the Islamic countries' heads of the states
The LOS functioned pretty well and efficently till the late sixties. But then it started to whither away and now no signs of LOS are senn anywhere. One of the reasons of its ollapse was rampant corruption that sneaked into our country in the 70s. A neighbour of mine once told me the reason of LOS collapse. He told me that he was once visiting a LOS supervisor's office and a worker came in for a request of loan. The supervisor, showing his inability to extend any loan, handed him over tow very expensive spare parts of the bus and told him to sell off in the market to attend to his needs.

Now no one may even know anything about LOS. In fact it was very difficult for me to find photographs of LOS buses and double deckers. I am thankful to Project Lahore and Lahore - the City of Gardens on Facebook to have provided me the photos used in this post.

Good old days when LOS ruled the roads of Lahore - I see all these photos with a nostalgia and memories that I always cherish till date.

Originally posted in my blog Jaho Jalal

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Streets of Lahore and I

Today while I was just listening to my old collection of songs, the famous song “On the Street Where You Live” from the all time classic and melody film “My Fair Lady” started playing. While it is one my best favourite, it took me back to the street where I lived as a five year old child, grew up there and then moved out as a young man to find avenues for my future life. And this post is all about the Street Where I Lived.

While I was born in Lahore, but it wasn't five years later that we finally came back from Sargodha and Karachi to live my next fifteen years in a house that my father owned on the street I am going to talk about. Just adjacent to the famous McLeod Road of Lahore, it was a non-paved street ( as were most of the streets then in the very early 60s). So everybody would sprinkle water in front of their houses in the evening, and being the youngest in the house, it was my duty when I was about 10. In front of our house was an old “Haveli” where an assortment of people lived. It was a small community and everyone knew each other well. In those days, the Sui Gas had not found its way to our street, so we fueled our kitchen with the kerosene oil or the coal. The present AC (alternate current) thing also had not found its way to most parts of Lahore, so instead we had DC (direct current), something that perhaps many a people today won’t even know of.

Life continued as few years passed by and then one day we heard that our street is going to be paved. There was lot of enthusiasm and excitement when we also heard that before the work on the road began, the Sui Gas line will also be laid and connection provided for domestic use. So the machineries moved in, earth dug up and gas pipe line laid along with a Fire Hydrant, something that I did not know before so my father told me that this device is to be used for filling up fire brigade vehicles in case of fire in the area which would save them from bringing water from long distances. And then the road was laid and there was no more sprinkling of water as the dirt had gone and so I was relieved of my daily duty.

As roads bring development in the area, one day I found carts and trucks coming and people living in the Haveli across “the road” moving their luggage and belongings and moving away. It was a touching moment as people I knew since my childhood were going away for good as I was to come to know that the Haveli was being demolished to make way for a multi story building with shops and flats. Once the vacation was completed, there came a platoon of labourers who starting dismantling the building and by and by the entire structure was raised to ground and over a period of time, the Haveli was replaced by a three story building. The beautifully carved wooden doors and “Jharokas” were replaced by steel shutters and glass windows. The building robbed us from a romantic neighbourhood. New people moved in and by and by we started recognizing our new neighbours, as the memories of the old ones started to fade away.

The time came for three of us five brothers to move out of Lahore. The eldest Gul Hameed Bhattil left for Karachi to become a cricket man, married Razia Bondray (later Razia Bhatti ) and settled in Karachi forever. The second eldest and I the youngest moved north, me to join the Pakistan Military Academy and Zafar to join the Pakistan Ordnance Factories. The twins, Kamal and Jamal, remained back in Lahore (both graduates of the famous National College of Arts). That was the time in between 1972-75 that our association with Lahore and the street where we lived dimmed as we three from then on were to settle outside Lahore and would come occasionally on leave to visit our parents and walk through the street. By then the street had become very congested as on the ground floor of the new building, many a shops had opened up and there was noise of people coming and going reinforced by noise of cars and motorcycles. The once calm and quietness of the area had been taken over by the business noises.

Then it was the same place where my ailing parents left for their heavenly abodes one by one while all us five brothers had already moved out to other places due to compulsions of our jobs. When after my mother, my father also bid farewell to the street where we lived, the house was one day also sold off, bringing an end to my old association with the place and the street.

I will talk more about other streets and roads of Lahore in one of my next posts.

Recently, while visiting Lahore, I took my two sons to the place for a last visit as now I had nothing left but my memories of almost five decades – which will always be there till I am as nothing can replace one’s childhood memories ever, specially of the street where one lived.

Originally posted at Jaho Jalal

Many Gates of Lahore and I

Lahore is a beautiful city to visit. It is a city of history or a history in city - take it both ways and it is true for Lahore. It figures out in all prominent and important historical documents and when talking of emperors, prince and princesses besides architecture and gardens. Lahore was most prominent during ad after the Mogul period and has thus is often termed as the showcase of Mogul architecture as each successive Mogul emperor had his share of adding beautiful buildings and gardens to add grandeur and beauty to Lahore.

While the marvels of Mogul architecture are spread all over Lahore, the Walled City of Lahore is one complex that encloses in itself the real Lahore which has thrived since time immemorial. One really doesn't know how old is the old Lahore enclosed in its once high walls with numerous entrances in all its sides. As per Wikipedia, and according to carbon dating evidence of archaeological findings in the Lahore Fort, the time period for in-habitation of Lahore could be anything as early as 2,000 BCE. 

Map of  Walled City of Lahore [ Map: Wikipedia ]
The life in the walled city of Lahore truly reflects the actual and indigenous culture of Lahore. The walled city is dominated in the NNW by the massive Lahore Fort or the Shahi Qila (Royal Fort), while many beautiful structures, buildings and mosques, like the Wazir Khan Mosque and the Golden Mosque (Sunehri Masjid) inside the walls of old Lahore still stand majestically, though some in dilapidated condition now.

While it would take post after post to talk of life and architecture of the old city of Lahore, I will talk of the many gates that lead into the walled city.

In all there were thirteen gates around the walled city. All gates were built with typical arched style and were unique in their individual capacity. Each gate was given a particular name that described its facing, location and speciality in the overall context of Lahore. These thirteen gates were named as: Akbari Gate, Bhati Gate, Delhi Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Lohari Gate, Masti Gate, Mochi Gate, Mori Gate, Roshnai Gate, Shahalmi Gate, Shairanwala Gate, Taxali Gate, and Yakki Gate.

The gates guarded the walled city for as long they could sustain the onslaught of its invaders. However, these succumbed to the British Raj, when after occupation of Lahore by the British in the 19th century. While destroying many historical buildings like any ruthless warriors like the Chengiz Khan, nearly all gates were also demolished in order to 'de-fortify' Lahore. The only gate that survived the Britsh wrath was the Roshnai Gate, which is located between the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort.

Although, an effort was later made to rebuild these gates and restore these to their original shape, many were lost forever. Shahalmi Gate burnt to ground during the riots of 1947 while Akbari Gate was demolished for repairs but never built again. As of today, only six gates, namely Bhati Gate, Delhi Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Lohari Gate, Roshnai Gate, and Shairanwala Gate survive. Though recently a repair and renovation was undertaken, some gates are in pretty bad shape and require much attention and repair work.

Starting from the north clockwise, the first gate is the Masti Gate, just right of the Lahore Fort. No one knows why this gate was called so, but some historians contend that the name is a corruption of 'Masjadi Gate' referring to the mosque of the Mariyam Zamani Begum, mother of Emperor Jahangir, situated in its immediate vicinity. A little trace of this gate in its renovated form can still be seen.

Tonga coming out of the Kashmiri Gate
Next to Masti Gate is the Kashmiri Gate - Since the gate faces in the direction of Kashmir, the gate draws its name accordingly. Inside the gate, there is the famous Kashmiri Bazaar. There is also a girls college, which is housed in a big haveli which once belonged to a royalty and is a exotic piece of Mogul architecture.

The next gate almost in NNE direction is the Sheran Wala Gate. 'Sher' in Urdu language means lion. Thus the name means the gate of the lions. It is said that during the reign of Ranjit Singh he had kept here two domesticated lions and the gate came to be called Sheran Wala Gate.

Yakki Gate is the next gate in the NE direction. Like he Masti Gate, the name of this gate is also distorted. The original name was 'Zaki' - after the name of a saint who according to tradition died fighting against the Mughals, while gallantly defending the city. It is said that even after his head was cut off at the gate, his trunk continued fighting for sometime, and then fell close by. Head and the trunk of the saint was buried at their fallen places separately and both are revered to this day. No traces of this gate are found now.

Beautiful painting of Dehli Gate
Dehli Gate almost faces due east in the direction of now Indian city of Dehli. As part of the reconstruction of selected sites of Walled City, this gate has also been renovated. Many a historical places such as Shahi Hamam (Royal Bath), Chitta Darvaza (White Door), a number of old havalies and the famous Masjid Wazir Khan are situated inside this gate. The remains of the old gate still exist as “Chitta Darwaza” (the White Gate) about a hundred meters away from the present gate.

Rare picture of the Akbari Gate taken in 1962 [ Photo shared by Shiraz hassan at Lahore Nama ]

Akbari Gate comes next, named after the Emperor Akbar who rebuilt the town and the citadel. No traces of it exist today. How did it vanish, there is not much available. May be the gate due to neglect had collapsed and then no one took care of it, except clearing the rubble. However, the nearby famous market place "Akbari Mandi" takes its name from Emperor Akbar and is one of thriving main wholesale market of grains in Lahore, like the Jodia Bazaar of Karachi.

Mochi Gate was situated between Shah Aalmi and Akbari Gate. It is said that the gate is named in honour of Moti, a Hindu guard of the gate during the Mughal era. Later the name was distorted and became Mochi. But a more plausible explanation of the name is that Mochi in Urdu means a cobbler and it may have derived its name from cobblers that may have once thrived in the area. There is a prominent grave of a saint, which in olden times was in one of the cubical of the gate.At the entrance of the gate is a ground / garden called Mochi Bagh (garden), which during elections is a popular place for the political leaders to make speeches. The gate does not exist anymore.

Shah Aalmi Gate, located almost due south is named after Mohamad Moazam Shah Alam Bahader Shah, the son and successor of Aurangzaib. The gate was also said to be known as Bherwala Gate  once, but its popular name remains the Shah Almi gate. The gate does not exist now as it was burnt down in the partition riots of 1947. While the name still remains, it is synonymous to the famous Shah Almi market, which is a thriving business centre of Lahore.

Restored Lohari Gate
Lohari Gate draws its name from the word Lohar (Loha in Urdu means iron, thus Lohar means the blacksmith),  since there were many blacksmiths in the area in the olden days. Another explanation is that the gate takes its name from Lahore and was once called Lahori Gate, but has over a period of time distorted to Lohari Gate. Since the gate faces present Ichra, which was the actual Lahore in Hindu Raj, it is known as Lahori Gate. This gateway still exists in its renovated form and is famous for being one of the main entrances of the city. The out way from the famous Anarkali bazaar leads directly to this gate. 

I have visited the inside of Lohari Gate many times in my childhood as one of our relatives lived there in the famous 'Koocha Munjh Kuttan.'

Next to Lohari Gate is the Mori Gate. Although never a gate like the rest of the 12 gates, the so-called 13th gate, named as Mori Gate, was in old time a place used as outlet for the refuse and the sweepings of the city.

Bhaatti Gate as of now [ Photo: Tahir Iqbal / Flickr ]
Bhaati Gate is one of the most famous gates of the walled city. It is said that the real culture of old Lahore actually thrives inside the area of Bhaati Gate. "Bhatties" - one of the leading sub-caste of Rajputs once abounded the area of walled city, where this gate was constructed. Therefore the gate derived its name accordingly. This gate is situated at the south-western bend of the city in its renovated form. 

Still there are references that the word Bhatti is distorted name of Bhutti Gate. Riaz M Azlan, in his post "Chelsea of Lahore: Bhati Gate" at Lahore Nama writes:
In the books of history the account of this gate can be seen in the mid of 3rd century with reference to the Conqueror Raja Karpal Rao. Karpal built a castle with the name of “Bhatnair”. His offspring called Bhutti and Bhaati. In “Lahore ka Chelsea” (Chelsea of Lahore) Hakeem Ahmed Shuja writes; The real name of the gate is Bhutti gate, and it is the point where Bhutti Warriors of Multan camped before the arrival of Mughals and with time, “Bhutti “spoiled into “Bhaati”.
Tahir Iqbal underneath his above photo of Bhatti Gate adds:
Bhaatti Gate is one of the two oldest entry points into the Walled City which controlled the only major north-south thoroughfare during Ghaznavid period. When the Emperor Akbar expanded the city eastward and divided it into nine districts or Guzars, Bhati Gate and its bazaar marked the boundary between Guzar Mubarak Khan (east) and Guzar Talwarra (west). It was called Bhati Gate because it opens in the direction of Sandal Bar named after Rai Sandal Khan a Bhatti Rajput who lived there in ancient times.
The famous poet and philosopher Dr Allama Mohammad Iqbal used to live inside Bhaati Gate when he was doing his graduation from the famous Government College. 

For some unknown reasons, whenever referring to the Lahorites, mention of this gate is the first one that comes to the mind. People of Bhatti gate are lively and they love to eat heavy and good food mainly Sri pai, halva puri and lasi. The favorite sport among the people here is wrestling. Famous wrestler Kala Maro also belongs to Bhatti gate. 

Just outside of Bhati Gate is Data Durbar, the mausoleum of the Sufi saint Ali Hajweri (also known as Data Sahib Ganjbaksh). Every Thursday evening musicians used to gather here to perform Qawwali music, but these days qawalies have been replaced with Naats and religious sermons.

There is so much to write about Bhatti Gate, that it requires another full post about it, which I shall in time, God willing.

The Taxali Gate, located opposite the famous Lady Wellington's Hospital, takes its name from "Taxal" or Mint once located nearby during the Mogul period. It once provided access through the wall that extended the western length of the city. It was heavily fortified and was designed to protect the city from any attack from the west-ward." With the passage of time this gate has completely vanished. 

There is a very famous shoe market located here known as Sheikupurian Bazar. There are a variety of foods available in and around this gate - one of the most beloved being Sri Pai from Fazal Din aka "Phajja." 

Roshnai Gate [ Photo: SaffyH / Flickr ]
And the last and most well kept and untouched by the British during their defortifying campaign is the Roshnai Gate (photographed above), situated at the northern extreme of the city, adjacent to the Lahore Fort. Since it was generally lit at night, it got its name from the Urdu word "Raushni" (the light). Being the principal entrance form fort to city, it was most frequented by the high gentry, courtiers and royal servants. Being part of the Fort-Mosque complex, it has been renovated with lot of care and stands out from all the rest of the gates.

From Masti Gate to Roshnai Gate, the loop of walled city of Lahore completes. While I have been to the areas inside the Bhaati and Lohari Gates, I intend going from the other entrance to the inside of Lahore City someday and write about the grandeur of the once thriving city of Lahore which now consists of mostly dangerously dilapidated old building built astride narrow alleys.

Restored White Gate / Dehli Gate
I may add here that ehe Government of Pakistan and the World Bank in 1983 prepared a cultural heritage conservation plan through the World Bank's Lahore Urban Development Project, which focused on the repair and restoration of the Delhi Gate (a principal entrance to the Walled City), the Delhi Gate Bazaar and the Shaahi Hammam (Royal Baths), located just inside the Delhi Gate.

Walled City of Lahore (Pakistanpaedia)
Walled City of Lahore (Wikipedia)

Originally posted at Jaho Jalal