Today, in an almost post-pandemic world – “they” say the vaccine will probably make her way to us besotted Lahoris soon – I am trying to write one research paper after another. Academia has its way of alienating us all, pitting one against another, into buying fancier vertigoes. Looking at deadlines, remembering what it was like in 2020, today, juggling with abstracts and the right bibliography, I play a song. SoundCloud has a good way with playlists. I never listen to music on YouTube. (لطف وہ عشق میں پائے ہیں : I have found such joys in affinity) stumbles my way, I remember Tabu and A Suitable Boy. I remember a flânerie too.
Raveeha and I went to visit a side of Lahore that we hadn’t seen before. We pinned a few sites on Google Maps: it usually doesn’t work well, especially for dérive in Lahore, but one has to trust Big B at times as well. Locating the building wasn’t very easy. We had to ask a few people around. But once we had walked into this relatively smaller street an open space spurred out. There were two particularly large trees at the sides and in the middle stood this building, The Bradley Hall.
I am trying to write a paper on Bhagat Singh: the freedom fighter, the hero, the writer. He was hanged on the 23rd March, in 1931, by the draconian colonizer. I’m trying to incur the concept of friendship from his letters. A boy under 25, not tolerable enough for the British Raj: today we have romanticized him to a certain extent but yesterday, what he was trying to do wasn’t romantic, not in the English way at least. It’s a shame that we measure romance in a foreign language. Like a translator inherits ‘the’ indigenous poem, in ways ‘the’ original poet might not want to give up to, but that’s that: organic gets dismantled, even if in nuisance and metaphor, once the lens changes.
Bradley Hall stands in loneliness – not remembered enough, or at all, like many heroes of Lahore that the Raj painted as adversaries and were never visited rightly again – somewhere off-Anarkali in the Data Gunj Bakhsh Town of Lahore. Though a lot of Lahore has unfortunately been deserted today by her admirers, with this pandemic; through fear, and mostly because her admirers have to walk masked and sanitized, to stay safe: what a world we have built for ourselves. Bradley Hall was constructed as a portal of organizing for the indigenous resistance movements against the Raj. It was, later on, made a technical and later an educational centre. Now, it’s home to pigeons and long lost but everlasting metaphors of potential indigenous resistances against vice, as such. Bhagat Singh was an ardent visitor of the Bradley Hall.
In 1923, Bhagat Singh wrote a letter to his father saying “I would be dedicated to the service of my nation.. I hope that you will be magnanimous and forgive me.” (The Bhagat Singh Reader, Lal, 8) In 1929, Bhagat Singh wrote a letter to a newspapers editor as a response to what the slogan (انقلاب زندہ باد : long live the revolution) denotes, “The spirit of Revolution should always permeate the soul of humanity, so that reactionary forces may not accumulate (strength) to check its eternal onward march. Old order should change, always and ever, yielding place to new, so that one “good” order may not corrupt the world. It is in this sense that we raise the shout “Long Live Revolution.” (Lal, 69)
Raveeha and I, marveled at the building’s size but her silence and gloom resonated a nostalgia, an idea of a space that once cooked hope for young people until later, when someday a Government Department decided to put a lock to her doors. There are, however, holes everywhere, even the all-metal roof is now perforated with neglect. It’s incredible how traveling strengths friendships. That is what flânerie denotes too, to form companionships of radical joy in walking. We walked around and wondered how the bricks carried words and wisdoms of people now buried but it feels fulfilling to know that souls remain, in generations, trees, bricks and perhaps hearts too. How is it possible that the human heart is only the size of a clenched fist when it carries all love(s) of the past and present, still with the potential to love more. The pain of having to keep the memory of old love(s) and revolutions integral, such is the job of it: but the heart’s safety also harbors vulnerability at its core, like buildings, revolutions, friendships, and ideas do.