Friday, September 07, 2007


Though not into much of reading business, I bought and read my first book in years. Yes, you read it right :-). I have read a book and it doesn't stop here , I wrote a review for it too. The title was something which was moving and got me interested. The book is "Lahore" by Pran Neville. I read it because it reminded me of the Lahore which my grandpa used to tell about. It reminded me of the kite flying I used to love passionately, it reminded me of the open culture I had inherited and above all it reminded me of now cherised days with my grandpa. It also reminded me of a Milestone on the Ferozepur road, which I used to notice on the way from home (Ludhiana) to college (Moga), which still says "Lahore 110 miles"(approx). And finally read it because it seemed to be much more than a book.

Below is the review.

Believed to be founded between 6th and 16th century B.C, the city of Lahore is amongst one of the oldest cities in the human civilization. Pran Neville’s book on Lahore talks about the times when Lahore was called the Paris of East. Though the history de-scribes British Raj in India as one of plunder and destruction, the book talks about British era as Lahore’s days of glory. The book is a memoir and an emotional tribute by the author to the city of his birth.

It starts with an introduction giving glimpses of the glorious past of Lahore. Then it moves into the life and streets of the walled city. It adores bazaars, educational institutions, kothas, and marvels of British and Mughal architecture that decorated the city. The sections on daily lives of Lahoris (as Lahore’s inhabitants lovingly called themselves), anecdotes on romances, affairs, games, singers, wrestlers etc provides the reader a look into rich and open culture of Lahore. The book also focuses on social dilemmas and exceptions to them that existed in those days. There’s a separate section devoted to the Lahoris’ famous penchant for good food and good clothing. It also focuses on the secular nature of the city in which Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims lived together in harmony. There is a full chapter devoted to Kite flying, the passion that still binds Lahoris and brings back reminiscences of grandeur of old days. The writings are full of nostalgia. It is a treat for those with a taste for history and can bring tears to those who have been uprooted from their homelands.

It is laden with the famous anecdotes, idioms and songs in Punjabi and Urdu (also ex-plained in English) of the bygone era. The journey into the heart of Lahore through author’s words makes one realize the truth of the famous saying “One who hasn’t seen Lahore hasn’t been born yet”. Towards the end of book, the author writes about the visit to his Mecca after 5 decades of wait.

His emotional journey into the past, throws open many implicit questions, the biggest being “Was partition a required sacrifice to give for our Independence?”. The author’s memoir echoes the pain and longing to see their roots by displaced millions on both sides of border and the agony of being called “Refugees” in the land, which they chose to be their country. A poet has rightly summed up this pain in the following words:

Koi Ajmer Sharif nu tarse,
Koi tarse Nankaane nu.

(The lines mean, “Some long for their Ajmer Sharif and some for their Nankana”. Ajmer Sharif is a holy place for Muslims located in India and Nanakana Sahib is holy place for Sikhs located in Pakistan.).

The only weakness for the book might be its overly simplistic language throughout, which can also be its strong point for many.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can I clone your article to my blog? Thank you…