PERSONAL ESSAYS

Pilgrims of Anarkali; Two Tales of Amnesia

(Image: Daily Times)

Reverberating echoes of a lost horizon, a forgotten past, visitors and lovers: there are monuments in the Anarkali Bazaar destitute of affection like certain fragments of my heart and every heart. What are supposed to be hallways of joy; the streets of Anarkali and the vessels of any heart, are now bereft of certain past affections taken away through narrow minded modernity, crises, general amnesia, and of course negligence, for what can be worse than negligence in love?

Some streets down Lower Mall, in the vicissitudes of the bustling Anarkali, sleeps, eternally, the controversial Qutb Al-Din Aibak, founder of the once magnificent Delhi Sultanate of 13th Century. Mamluk Dynasty, slave dynasty, saw some great leaders including Iltutmish and Razia Sultana. Aibak, a slave turned king, once ruled a unique dynasty that left lasting impressions on Hindustan, now lies lost in the humdrum of a city enslaved through white elephants of instant and portable modernity.

Stories are scattered all over Lahore, at its junctions, around its monuments, underneath its roads and gardens, in the lives of people, in the courtyards of Sufi shrines or within abandoned Hindu temples. Even today, as the world moves around these spaces oblivious to them, their stories continue to unfold, dancing and singing for anyone willing to listen. In these performances, Valmiki discourses with Jesus Christ, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto meets Qutb al-Din Aibak, nationalists participate in historic Mughal wars, Mughal princesses witness the heralding of a neo-liberal model of development, Bulleh Shah dances with Bhagat Singh. (Khalid, Imagining Lahore)

 

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Not acknowledging as much as we should have had, me and two ex-friends walked from the Old Campus of Punjab University to Aibak’s Mausoleum. Aimlessly when one loiters in the jammed streets of Anarkali, mouthful wisps of historic nostalgia waft past exuberance, lost jubilations and a deep residual sadness, a feeling specifically enchanting when one remembers it months later, having had lost those friends to time, temperament and utter negligence. Anarkali is named after a woman, a woman of questionable importance but a woman bearing a plethora of stories. Anarkali is almost a mythical bazaar, it is full of itself and simultaneously bereft of the “exotic” it was woven into by the Raj. “A walk through the streets of this bazaar is a walk through the history of the city.” (Khalid, Imagining Lahore)

Feeling a little dejected after the lack of enthusiasm of my lost friends, who seemed less enchanted by the sudden yellowness of the small Mazar with Persian inscriptions, a small garden and children playing around; I looked around and saw this Mandir, right there, neighboring the King’s mausoleum but somewhat very far away as if invisible to the eye. We went, being aimless hostelers with ample time, we went and after some trouble found out that a certain rusted door next to a cobbler’s shop led up to sets of ghostly stairs, centering small ghetto-like apartment complexes and no people, just occasional cats, hanging laundry and tints of nostalgia. We kept on climbing, hoping to reach a certain space from where the façade of the Mandir would make sense, eventually reaching, probably at the 3rd floor, a closed door. There, a small laughing child helped us juggle our way through the narrowed alley of stair sets, up to a certain end. We were encircling the Mandir, unbeknownst.

 

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