Tag Archives: Lahore

KK Aziz and the Coffee House of Lahore: Chris Moffat

Guest post by CHRIS MOFFAT 

During a recent trip to Lahore, I visited the Sang-e-Meel bookshop on Lower Mall Road in search of K.K. Aziz’s The Coffee House of Lahore. Happily, the store was well stocked with the late historian’s final work, and I spent the afternoon reading the text at a table outside the nearby Tollinton Market. It was a betrayal, perhaps, to read the book in this way, sipping cold drinks from the Hafiz Fruit and Juice Corner rather than something appropriately caffeinated, purchased amidst a flurry of conversations in a busy café. I took some solace in the fact that I was sitting not a stone’s throw away from the former Pak Tea House, once a hub of cultural life in the city and among the many spaces of discourse and dissent mapped by Aziz in his narrative of mid-twentieth century Lahore.

Today, the Pak Tea House appears hollowed and shuttered, no longer decorated with a sign to declare its name or to suggest life inside. In spite of recent rumours of a revival, its vacant façade appears a testament to Aziz’s loud lament in The Coffee House of Lahore: that the city’s culture has “disappeared from view”, that its original landmarks “have been obliterated”. The book emerged out of the historian’s desire to capture, before it is lost, the memory of a period of free thought, argument and cultural effervescence, encapsulated in the life of institutions like the Tea House, the Indian Coffee House, the Arab Hotel, the Nagina Bakery, and other important places of assembly, all of which have now vanished from the urban fabric. Aziz chooses to focus on the particularly tumultuous period between 1942 and 1957, when he was an active participant in this culture as a student of politics and later as a lecturer in Lahore’s Government College.
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‘Lahoris woke up and joined their son’

What a moment it is, what a moment it must be. Ordinary people on the streets of Lahore on Sunday, countless thousands of them, have forced the Pakistani government to re-instate the deposed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. What a moment of hope in a country the rest of the world believes is about to ‘implode’. What a resurrection of yourself, Mian Sa’ab, who will now remember how unpopular you were when Mush had ousted you!

Here’s an extremely illuminating account of what happened in Lahore, an anonymous account circulating on some mailing lists. This is apart from some excellent citizen reportage on Twitter by Pakistanis.

The Army, the Presidency, the Americans and the Prime Minister, were all ready to throw peanuts at Nawaz Sharif. The assessment was that 500 will reach constitution avenue (read Salman Taseer). In Pindi, we had halwa puri at a friends house today. A PPP friend who knew my passion for the CJ, at 11-00 am said, looking at me, “Yar Imran, there is a bigger long march in my house than in Lahore.” A PML N friend told me from Lahore, “Punjabis dont get out in the face of danda. The long march will fail.” Continue reading ‘Lahoris woke up and joined their son’