Monday, August 17, 2009

Visit to Heera Mandi

I visited Texali Bazaar of Lahore on August 16, 2009. I reached the infamous locality at 10pm and remained there until 3am.

A pimpled prostitute, wearing a black bra one size too small, laying on a stained mattress, awaiting the customers in a dusty room overpowered with strong smell of incense is the situation most people assume you into when you mention the name of this bazaar.

Contrary to popular practice of the visitors of this bazaar, mine was an informative trip. My friend Tariq Yar (from PTV) had invited me to Texali. I had a vague idea that the trip will be educational but didn’t know the extant.

Yar, who is doing research on the walled-city of Lahore voluntarily, introduced me to two of his friends. Advocate Iqbal, who also runs the Ustaad Damin Academy, and Mirza Rashid.

Iqbal is from Okara and is living in Texali for the past 28 years. He is a chronic bachelor and has no apparent appetite for facilities the neighborhood can offer at any time of the day.
Mirza is the inhabitant of the walled-city for the past so many generations. He knows the webbed streets of the walled-city like the back of his hand.

When I reached in Iqbal’s office, the three were pondering over pictures they have obtained from British library. They showed me camera pictures of the last Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zaffar and his wife Zeenat Mehal during the couple’s asylum in Burma and a picture of their two sons before they were beheaded by the British. They also showed me marriage certificate of the late king. All the pictures were in Iqbal’s computer.

I had also asked my friend Usmani Anasari to join me as he lives nearby. The three took us on a foot-trip. The three were discussing about a tree in the fort which they believed was at least a century old. They were comparing the tree with the one in the picture of the fort taken in 1902 (camera print).

Our first stop was on the top of Hotel Fortview. Most of Lahoris are not aware of this place. It’s located after a couple of buildings from the famous Cooko’s Den and is higher than it. Once on the top, we were able to view the mosque and the fort whereas Cooko offers only mosque’s view.

What followed was a very long walk. We walked at least seven bazaars. Mirza knows every nook and corner of the city. He showed us the houses of famous literary personalities with their brief introductions including their work. We saw the house of MD Taseer, the father of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. A market stood at the place where Salmaan was born.

We were also shown the first cinema of the city and the nearby house of famous Urdu novelist Ghulam Abbas. In fact, Abbas family was the tenant of the cinema owner, whose name I have forgotten courtesy of not carrying a handbook.

We saw a water pumping station. The station was setup at a place which was highest in the walled city. Despite being in a congested area, we could feel air circulating in the building. The superviser of the station told us that not a single nut has been replaced due to rust since the station started work. Nearby was an old fire station.

Mirza took us to a roadside paratha shop. Nice parathas with equally yummy sauces. Finally, the gurus heard the silent complains of our tired legs and called it a day.

On our way back, Iqbal asked a man about Judge Nazir, who was an influential person of the pre-partition walled-city. Little chat with that man generated some historic facts for the trio.

I was three hours late from the office (night shift), but the trip was worth it.

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