This is my last week in Lahore and time for me to step out of my inner life for a moment to describe some of my ongoing impressions.
Pakistanis are deeply distraught–and vocal– about the breakdown of civil society in what is arguably their failed state: their government does not protect them against terrorism, corruption, inflation, rising fuel and food prices. We read about suicide bombers but Lahoris live with their realities. Not nearly enough electricity and natural gas are being produced, resulting in scheduled and unscheduled ‘load shedding’ (power outages) of four hours or so in the cities and twice that in the rural areas. This is not only severely disruptive to people’s lives but also to the country’s economy. Political consciousness is high and its expression raucous and loquacious. Pakistan has more than 50 television news channels, filled with an apparently unending supply of loquacious, excitable talking heads; there are a dozen or so English-language newspapers complementing the dozens published in Urdu and other languages. I’m not sure about radio stations–they don’t seem to be as publicly ubiquitous as what I’ve seen in India.
The weather is much milder than usual (load shedding will increase once the temperatures rise), due to rains and hail in the north which has had a negative effect on that region’s agriculture.
I was very happy (and surprised, because I don’t remember this from my childhood) to see pipal trees (aka bodhi trees or ficus religiosa) everywhere. They are one of my favorite leaves for leafage-making but they are exotic and I rarely have any. The pipal trees are hardy enough to flourish despite traffic pollution; they line the main boulevards of Lahore, reminding me of the ginko trees on some Manhattan streets.
This rogue pipal sapling is about to be uprooted. It is nothing like the huge shady trees you can see everywhere in Lahore but which are difficult to photograph because stopping the car would be a fool’s adventure.
New green mangoes
I photographed this because of the improbable art nouveau font.
Because it’s on my Kindle, I started to read Anthony’s Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential but found his tone and story clashed with my environment. Geoffrey Moorehouse’s To the Frontier was much more harmonious and now I’m reading the absolutely wonderful Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River by Alice Albinia.
In a day or two I shall post stories of people I’ve met and conversations I’ve had.
Dr. Aamer Iqbal, son of Dr. Iqbal and who lives in this house in which I am the most well looked after guest, replied to my post with this comment:
Actually the plant is not jasmine, but “motia” — I can’t find an equivalent in English. Here are a few photos of flowers I too earlier. These include motia, jasmine and the raat ki rani, the one which gives out its fragrance in the evening.
He also sent me three beautiful photographs taken in the garden this afternoon:
Raat ki rani (queen of the night)