Notes from an Italian hermitage – despatches from BOLOGNA #3
Talking Location With Awais Khan – Lahore
16th September 2019
TalkingLocationWith …. Awais Khan – author of In The Company of Strangers set in Lahore, Pakistan. We asked Awais to describe the city that is the background to the book…
“As night fell, Lahore seemed to rise again from the ashes, pulsing with the same sensuality that had once lured the Mughals into making it their capital city. A city fit for kings.”
This line is from my novel In the Company of Strangers and I feel it encapsulates Lahore so perfectly, for it certainly is a city fit for kings. With a rich history dating back hundreds of years, Lahore has always been the cultural capital of the Indian subcontinent. Once limited only to the Walled City, the Lahore of today has spread far and wide with a population of over ten million people.
Having been born and brought up in Lahore, it felt natural to me that my city should feature broadly in my book. Pakistan, in general, has a very bad reputation in the West for being a country full of shanty towns with rampant poverty and lawlessness. My intention was to show the alternate side of Lahore, with a focus on the lives of the prosperous elite and their debauchery. I take the reader from the modern tree-lined boulevards and fancy mansions of Lahore to the elite class’s exclusive clubs and ornate drawing rooms where rich society ladies gather to gossip. I wanted to show that despite the threat of terrorism that looms over the country, life goes on in Lahore, with everyone from rich executives and bored society ladies to the the people in buses and rickshaws speeding away to their next destination, any recent security incident a faraway memory already. For, terrorism may have taken much from the people of Lahore, but it hasn’t taken away their will to live.
You need only venture out into the old city at night to get a feel of how alive Lahore is, with fairy lights strung across narrow streets, food vendors and hawkers crowding the space with their wares, people enjoying a unique dining experience right on the street, seated on rickety wooden benches with semi-open drains next to them carrying inky black refuse to the River Ravi.
My book isn’t only about the elite of Lahore, though. Like every megacity in the world, Lahore has its underbelly too, with drug addicts loitering under flyovers and people in donkey carts existing alongside the ones in luxury cars. There are large middle-class communities that open up to farmhouses that are playgrounds of the rich. Lahore is a city of contradictions and the only way I could meaningfully showcase it was through the eyes of my characters.
Thank you to Awais for a most informative piece on Lahore. You can, of course, buy his book through TripFiction... and follow him on Twitter and you can of course buy his book through the TripFiction database.
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