“The Town Was Paper, But The Memories Were Not”

We used to come to Lahore in summer vacation. It was like a fixed routine for every year and we always looked forward to it. Firstly because we would meet our cousins, hang out with them, have our little picnics. So this time of the year was very fascinating. The excitement of the long awaited holidays and spending it in leisure and fun was just completely overwhelming and awesome.

It began with the first phase: packing! Packing was fun (because at that time my part was done by someone else!) and there was always a hustle around the house till the very end time. Then before leaving my parents would have this little discussion with the three of us about not quarrelling and fighting with the others and not to misbehave in any way. At that time I used to think that God! Why don’t our parents trust us or at least give us a chance to be on our own. We can show them that how self-sufficient and well-mannered we are. But it became clear to me in the later years of my life that this training of my parents really brought a visible difference to my character. Just like so many other things, I owe this to my parents.

Then began the journey. It was fun in itself. The three of us i.e. I, my sister and my brother had our seats fixed at the back. My brother and I were to sit by the window seats while my sister would always sit in the middle. This arrangement had two benefits; firstly we would be able to enjoy the air and the view outside through our windows, secondly when we got tired we would rest our heads on her shoulders. The best part was that she never complained. It was not only the view that made the journey pleasant; there were these short stops as well when the car needed fell and we used to rush into the tuck shop and refill our energy tanks! Moreover, once in a while our father would take us to visit some place if we had plenty of time. So we visited Wall’s factory once and had the yummiest and most fresh ice cream ever. Also, we went to Mitchell’s food factory and got our bags filled with all the sweets they could carry. So it was an exciting beginning to a wonderful holiday.

Lahore as I remember at that time held a fascination for me. As we entered Lahore, I would just stick my nose with the car’s window and look at the metropolitan with an expression of awe and surprise. There stood these tall buildings and plazas and big, huge signboards with their colorful and vibrant advertisements. Being one of the biggest cities of the country, it had this urbane and industrially revolutionized air about it. Yet it gave the impression of bearer of a rich culture, history and civilization. It had this grandeur and magnificence about it. We would travel alongside the canal (which was much cleaner then!) and the water gave this feeling of purity and richness to me. Seeing the flowers and leaves floating and the reflections of the vehicles in it, conveyed a sense of calmness and peace to me. I would be brought back from this enchanted scenario when we would reach Walton. Then all of us would get busy in finding the ‘Street No.21’ board in which my maternal grandparents and Aunt lived. The two houses were side by side, joined internally. It was pretty exciting to see them all and so the rest of the day was passed chattering, laughing, making jokes, and taking rest. During our stay there, one thing was compulsory; we HAD to visit the nearby bakery ‘Hot Cake ‘(it’s a pity that it no longer exists). The bakery could be called a child’s heaven! It had everything that we desired for. It contained all kinds of creamy chocolate cakes, yummiest pastries, finger licking chocolates, crispy crunchy snacks, and all types of colorful juicy sweets. Not only was everything sold at reasonable price, all the goods were fresh and the bakery had this most delicious and mouthwatering whiff and fragrance all around. So there was no way we could resist going there, one call from my father and we were all out of the house to be taken there. As I allow my memory to take me to that time of my childhood, I see myself sitting on the ground of my grandfather’s big lawn, sharing bread jam with my cousin, and enjoying the rain as it poured over us lightly. The smell of the soil and all the plants and flowers (there were so many!) made it all the more amazing. We used to play bare feet in that lawn, ignorant of how wet the rain had made us, cherishing the little time we all had together.

Time never remains the same. I never even imagined at that time that Lahore is going to be my home in future. My father got transferred and we had to move to Lahore with him. But in my eight years of stay here, I have realized that Lahore has lost its exquisite and scent of rain. It’s been replaced by the acrid smoke and toxic waste of the industries. Lahore has indeed grown bigger and vaster than it was before, but for me it has lost its grandness and divinity a little bit. I miss the Lahore that was a little less materialistic.

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