When random people ask me if I ever miss you? I don’t know what to reply because the question is queer to me. How can I not miss you! It wasn’t the first time that I was away from you. I had left you so many times in last 3 decades for finite time periods but each time I knew I would come back to you, my city. This time I don’t know when I will see you again. 8 months back I left you for good not knowing when will I come back and feel the wind that blows at its extreme in every season.
The smog may be an issue from the last two years in a row now but the breathing in all literal terms had become trickier in my city over decades. But Lahore was way different when I grew up there. I miss the kind of “YOU” I grew up in when the sky was cleaner, the streets were a playground, February was about Basant (kite festival), where people could run by a canal that lit brightly in the spring when every occasion celebration included Chaman ice-cream from Mall Road.
My first memory of you takes me to our home in Dharam Pura , Canal Colony and the local fried fish seller outside our colony gate. When I could hide in neighbor’s home to play for an extra hour in all those freedom years when I had not even stepped into the school.
I went away from you for the first time when USA family trip came our way while my father was studying, now I wonder if I had been the same person if I never grew up in your streets and stayed in the USA. My father decided to come back as per the situation of the family so I saw you again. And I am glad I did.
The next memory takes me to Barkat market, Garden Town where I spent my pocket money savings on playing the street fighter in a video game store on Friday with my brother. The broken slides in the park yet peaceful enough that my mother would let me be away from her sight for 2 hours to go with my brother or friends. The old guy selling orange Ice lolly before the musical cycles of Walls Ice cream entered the arena. Crossing the main roads on the bicycle to reach school at the time where I was the only girl who would do that in my class. The innocent friends I lost and found after years is what no one could do but “YOU” because we both picked you to live in. My countless trips to have those anda shami burgers with my bestie with all those savings that made us feel rich then.
Very few good restaurants existing on Main Boulevard like Taiwah, Yeefah, Yummy 36 and Mac Burger were venues for each siblings birthday because that’s how family celebrated these special occasions. Now that I see restaurants on each of your street with so many flyovers linking the internal city to the external extended one. I had seen you transitioning in every way and so did you.
You had seen me transitioning from a child to a girl, accommodating my dreams of careers as per the requirements and my rebellious nature. Learning driving while understanding how your network of roads was connected. Kalma Chowk was the central point to understand your directions.
You showed me opportunities that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. As I peep my mind alleys I see Jail Road is a special chapter that made me learn so much about my life. I had spent my best and worst moments there. I remember when my mother was in the hospital I would walk from hospital to Kinnaird college across the road and back to hospital trying to numb the pain within me. I always wanted to see Jail road in the loneliest midnight hours to see how it looked like at night. I saw that after decades when the rooftop Hotels like Bistro 201 sprung up showing the roadside beauty of you to the foodies.
Bunking the first class in the college to have a quick breakfast at CAPRI, Liberty was really a big adventure especially when Daewoo was just stepping into the transportation system with the separate place for women and we didn’t have to bear local van drivers and the cheap stunts people played in vans.
Mall Road beside the traffic dilemmas has been a partner in success and failures. I remember sitting in front of the National College of Arts and crying as my name in the admission list was not there. For 3 good years, I didn’t go on Mall Road just to avoid the sight of the building as it brought me back the heartbreak. But then right before the day of the wedding, I was standing At Shahdeen Manzil, Mall Road for my final interview as a Management Trainee.
As I graduated, got married & started working, never ever I thought I would leave you. But then we should never say never. I left you again in 2011 to do another Masters from Dublin leaving my family, my parents, friends & You. Dublin was a living example of 4 seasons a day. That city taught me more about me that you probably didn’t because somehow you were my comfort zone after all those years that I spent in your streets and towns. The Celtic wind has its own way of teaching me about the coldness of the world, I missed your warmth in the cold nights when I would walk back from college or work. As I came back you took me back as always and gave me more opportunities to flourish.
You were my friend and a planet where all my friends resided once, but as life moved on …all my friends were gone one by one and it was just you and me left together.
As I started traveling for work every time I would fly in or out, I could count that you would wait for me every time no matter how things turn out. I would be staying out of town for weeks knowing that i have you to go back to.
I remembered your misty foggy mornings arriving in December end and as the streets were oozing out with the Coffee Culture I remember sitting in the open air to enjoy the fog at late nights enjoying the super expensive cups of a simple cappuccino or getting a quick cup of coffee on way to Office. The wedding seasons with the halwas and the Kashmiri tea served in farmhouses added more beauty to your existence.
I have cried at my biggest losses and laughed at my random mischiefs in you especially when I drove by Canal. I have been a badass in the streets of Liberty market to be my own protector. I have been a crazy shopaholic in the streets of liberty and being late after the lunch hour to get an extra bite of Gol gappas(snack) at Main Boulevard. Eating Cock & Bull Shawarma(sandwich) quickly as I drive after a shopping spree. You have always owned me at my best and at my worst!!
The city that I live in now has the feeling of comfort, peace and the wind that blows away the fear of the unknown. It’s a blessing to be here.
But still when someone asks me if I miss you ever? I don’t know what to say because I didn’t live in you. You lived in me. You still live in me and will always do!
Basant and fish my favorite