HOME: The cultural hub of Pakistan

For Minahil Fatima, home is her father’s off-key attempt to sound like Jagjit Singh and laughing at his failure (Alex Dascalu/AQ)

Minahil Fatima is a first-year international relations and political science student at St. Thomas University from Pakistan. She’s a hardcore Marvel fan who loves travelling and trying new things.

When I think of home, I think of Lahore.

I’ve grown up hearing the phrase, “جینے لاہور نئی دیخیا و جامیا نی.You aren’t born until you’ve seen Lahore. And it’s true. From the rich cultural history to the unparalleled hospitality, Lahore is a point of pride. It’s the city of the Mughal and the Sikh Empires, and the birthplace of the Edhi Foundation and Shaukat Khanum Hospital. It’s something my family teases our foreigner guests about when they decide not to stay overnight. How can one just stay in Lahore for only a couple of hours? How can one resist the smell of its history, people and most importantly food and not be tempted to stay and explore? But then again, I say all of this because Lahore is home.

Lahore is brutal summers and foggy winters. It’s the sound of children screaming and running through the house at the first rainfall of the season. It’s the smell of my Ammi’s pakoras (fried fritters) and my Nani’s chai tea with the monsoon as our soundtrack. Lahore is sitting in my car on the nehar (canal road) and watching construction workers jump in the canal to quell the heat. It’s waiting for the bus while staring at the kulfi-wala (ice-cream vendor) and fighting the urge to buy one. It’s a city that never slows down, whether its pouring rain or the sweltering sun. Lahore is a city guided by the seasons yet resilient on its own. But then again, I say all of this because Lahore is home.

Fatima likes to wrap herself in a blanket to secretly eat peanuts in the middle of the night on her balcony (Submitted by Minahil Fatima)

Lahore is getting stuck in traffic and listening to my Abu’s favorite ghazals (lyric poems). It’s my father’s off-key attempt to sound like Jagjit Singh (King of Ghazals) and our laughter at his failure. Lahore is eating at Anarkali food street, a pedestrianized area for street food named after a courtesan, in the face of my Ammi’s disapproval. It’s going with my friends to Badshahi Masjid (a Mughal era landmark mosque) a week before our Cambridge exams and praying for our luck. Lahore is taking a rickshaw to Cuckoo’s Den to eat the best nihari (meat stew) in town. It’s being part of the Lahori dream and thriving in the face of challenges. But then again, I say all of this because Lahore is home. 

Lahore is celebrating Eid at Masjid Wazir Khan. It’s Christmas mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. It’s the sound of Diwali and the colour of Holi in Neela Gumbad. Lahore is all of us, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians coming together for Mela Chiraghan (the Festival of Lights) and being a true Lahori. It’s jalebi and gol gappe (street foods) and midnight runs to the corner dhabba (a corner shop). Lahore is acknowledging the differences and then reuniting over our love of Biryani. But then again, I say all of this because Lahore is home.

Being a true Lahori means coming together for the Festival of Lights (Submitted by Minahil Fatima)

Lahore is endless winter weddings that are loud, colourful and weeks long because the weather is finally bearable. It’s going to raves on Bedian and then eating breakfast at Gawalmandi. Lahore is shopping for chooriyan, jhumkey and khusse (jewelry and shoes) at Liberty on chand raat (the night before Eid) with my cousins. It’s secretly eating moon phali (peanuts) on the balcony in the middle of the night while wrapped up in a blanket. It’s going to Racecourse Park every Sunday and eating aloo chaat (fried potato street food) with my Abu. Lahore is complaining to my mom about going to Cantonment (a residential part of town) to pick up my brother. It’s getting stuck in M. M. Alam traffic and jaywalking across Kalma Chowk. Lahore is walking in the Aurat March (Women’s March) and making my own rules. But then again, I say all of this because Lahore is home.

Because when I think of Lahore, I think of home.

 “لاہور لاہور اے” (Lahore is Lahore)

HOME is a bi-weekly column where people from different countries can express what home means to them. If you would like to write for this column, please send an email to [email protected]