In the Name of Our Heritage
By Fatima Arif
Spring is just around the corner but with each passing year, it no longer brings the collective festive mood in which Lahore once used to glow.
‘Jinay Lahore nai taqya, o jamiya nai’ (roughly translated to: who has not seen Lahore is not yet born). However, the powers to be are hell bent on turning the city into an eye-sore. In the disguise of development, the city of gardens is under siege of concrete and steel. Not many are fooled!
Lahore is the cultural heart of the country, with a sense that it does not need to prove its place. Recently, the sense has been rattled, engulfed with suffocation as a result of shutting down of everything that once formed the roots of the city.
Safety of human lives is supreme, there are no two opinions on that; but as we can see shutting down cultural activities has not prevented loss of precious life. That requires some serious rethinking of the state’s policy and making some uncomfortable decisions. Steps no one seems interested in.
Basant, a festival that is some hundred years old got axed in the name of the ‘chemical thread’. Obviously, it was going to be too much work curbing the dangerous thread, so as always the easy way out was opted and the entire thing was banned. Its cultural importance, tourism and revenue opportunities and most of all the fact that this festival provided a healthy entertainment for the masses all ignored.
The vengeance with which the ban is implemented, would make you believe that its existence is the biggest national security issue. From heavy fines to using drones surveillance to ensure that the ban is abided by.
Similarly, the annual puppet festival that was fixture of my childhood because the authorities refused to commit the needed security after it was attacked. As for the people, as my memory serves me, the next day crowds flocked the venue to show their support and solidarity.
Constructing colorful transportation systems that are not sustainable, at the expense of the destruction of our history and the substance of the common people does not count as progress. Pakistan is one of the 3 countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria still fighting Polio. Out of 140 countries we rank at 126 in terms of global economic competitiveness. We are one of the 6 countries who will be affected by climate change and our performance at the biggest climate action conference (COP21) in December 2015 was nothing but a bad joke.
More than 60% of our population lives below the poverty line. Furthermore, be it the education system, health care, disaster relief, power crisis, terrorism and food security are all in tatters. In a scenario where the basic components are missing, who in their right mind can measure development by unwanted structures?
Henrik Tikkanen said: “Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.”
There was a Lahore I read in books, then there was a Lahore of my childhood that is fading away real fast and then there is today’s Lahore that with each passing day I fail to recognize. In fact I consider it a crime to deprive the world of its Lahore.