Anarkali- down the memory lane


Mufakhra Rao Advocate

WHILE passing through the bustling Anarkali bazaar in Lahore, I keenly watched every shop on both sides while firmly holding my mother’s hand. Every shop was eye-catching and hundreds of beautifully-displayed items caught the attention of my heart and I wanted to buy all of them. Mother suddenly broke the silence by asking my choice, but I don’t remember whether I pointed anything specifically or not. After buying something, we went to a famous milkshake shop which was run by an old man with a long, white beard and the same color of hair with prayer’s cap on his head. I still remember calmness on his face, which I used to watch every time we visited him. He always had the un-declining taste of mango milkshake. We refreshed ourselves before finishing shopping.
We bought something more including some story books; and by the end, we moved to Pak Tea House which was an intellectual’s den where we used to see a galaxy of academia, artistic, cultural and literary personalities. It was a favourite rendezvous of people of diverse backgrounds. They were the shining stars of the town who, usually, smoke all around. Tables were simple and clean with an ashtray. Salt and paper bottles, at least two glasses and a steel jug of water was found on every table. There were some sofa seats and chairs for certain visitors to choose their thoughts in a non-judgmental atmosphere. As soon as an intellectual entered, he was got surrounded by other literary figures and opinions were welcomed for criticism and admiration.
It was an era of the 1970s that was famous for economic struggle, cultural upheavals, trendy fashion and societal liberty of men and women, bold expressions and new concepts of human rights and equality. It developed modern-day fiction, drama, poetry and movies, etc. Artists got new fame, and this was a wonderful world for a little girl like me. Similarly, newly opened disco clubs were a favourite hot-spot for the youth who was influenced by film and television media. Many TV dramas were very popular like ‘Waris’ by Amjad Aslam Amjad, ‘Khuda Ki Basti’ by Shaukat Siddiqui, first colored series ‘Parchayan’ by Haseena Moin, ‘Dhoop Kinarey’ was directed by Sahira Kazmi and ‘Tanhayyan’ was written by Haseena Moin. The 1970s was the gateway of intellectual, literary rivalry and political controversies. American artistes Michael Jackson and Madonna were the favorite stars of Pakistani youth. Pak Tea House was adjacent to famous locations like Nila Gumbad, Mayo Hospital, King Edward Medical College, Lahore Museum and National College of the Arts.
We used to live in the girl’s hostel of Punjab University. The canal was at an arm’s length from our hostel and there were no security threats. My mother Dr. Roshan Ara Rao remained a student of Urdu and Journalism departments in the Punjab University. The scholars who shined her intellectual abilities were Altaf Fatmah, Dr. Iftikhar Siddiqui, Zikriya, Dr. Abdul Salam Khursheed, Dr. Sajjad Bague Rizvi and Dr. Mehdi Hassan. She wrote columns in famous newspapers like Mashriq and Nawa-e-Waqt. She was also the honorary editor of Urdu magazine Sada-i-Watan. Yad, Philosophical Review, Mah-e-Nou and Al-Zubair were some of the magazines where she poured her philosophical analyses of life and reviewed the literary work of distinctive personalities of that time.
We also used to visit Dr. Abdul Salam Khursheed at his Muslim Town residence. The atmosphere had always been calm, clean and welcoming. Every article was beautifully displayed, and things were un-dusty and un-touched. His wife was a well-composed woman, mother and a person who always welcomed us with a warm heart and a cheerful smile on her face. She always insisted us to stay for lunch or dinner. Many people’s birthdays were stored in her memory which she never missed wishing. Their two daughters, I remember, were sophisticated, warm-hearted and hard-working. They had never left a chance to accommodate visitors and their children of my age were more playful than I. Dr. Khursheed inculcated his vast researches into my mother’s mind who was one of his favourite students, because she had an uncompromising adherence to his rules and tasks that would make her teachers feel proud.
She never gave herself any concessions. In my lifetime, I have never met any woman more diligent, conscientious and ambitious than my mother, who always tried to hit the mark and be accurate in her findings. She had written extensively on literary topics and her books namely “Majallati Sahafat Kay Idarti Masail,” “Naqsh-e-Rah Guzar,” “Nagaishat-e-Roshan” and “Nudrat-e-Afkhar” shows talent and literary work which makes me proud of her. The whole picture of life was revolving in my mind when I passed through Anarkali after 35 years to enter Mayo Hospital with my eldest daughter when she got admission in King Edward Medical University and I could not hide the tears in my eyes. Alas, our loved ones leave this world one by one, but the journey of life continues.
—The writer is a practicing lawyer in Islamabad High Court and a freelance contributor.