The house is there alright: it exists, although considerably altered. It’s all white now, the bougainvilleas are gone; it’s extended on the sides and above and it shares the compound with three or four glossy new houses. It is the home and office of one of Pakistan’s leading industrial and political families.
After my last post, I took courage in both hands and went on a timid excursion, not really naive enough to think I could knock on the door and say “Hi, I used to live here!” but unprepared for the formidable solid metal gate and the fierce bearded and be-rifled guards. I stayed in the car while my polite and socially skilled driver took over, came back with a phone number which the admirable “duty manager” at the hotel parlayed over three days of skillful connections management into an invitation for me to come to the house this morning.
I walked around outside taking photos. Inside, I recognized most of the rooms but it’s all so altered–new stairways, lowered ceilings, added rooms, that my being there was through a glass darkly, through degrees of separation. I am overwhelmed by the hospitality and graciousness with which the family received me and the conversations we had. I left some of the original photos of the house with them (and also a leafage!) and in return received a book about the grandfather, one of Pakistan’s earliest presidents. They have invited me to come back and I will: more conversations and discoveries are waiting in the wings. It was heartening to see that they seem as interested me as I am in them, that our affection for the house and our histories of living in its rooms created an immediate bond between us.
This is the third Pakistani home I’ve been in and each time I have been received by three family generations—none of that nuclear family isolation! Wherever I have been, people remember my father and mother which makes me realize that however humble in the scheme of things, my family is a tiny but living thread in the history of Lahore.