Once In Lahore
I did not dare
To stride the Zam Zammah,
In homage to Kipling.
Firing dreams into
The humid air, ripe
With monsoon under
A puce sky, daubed
With heavy grey clouds,
And waiting the first
Cannon crack of thunder.
I did not intend
To dip my hands in
The cool, still pools
Of Shalamar Bagh.
The surface waters quivering
In a gentle afternoon breeze,
Blurring my reflection
To a bokeh photograph.
The late asr sun
Dipping towards sunset.
I did not expect to
Be facing a 10 year old
Mini Wasim Akram,
Under the silent gaze
Whipping a pull to leg
And scattering cricket loving pigeons.
As the ebullient youngsters gave
Chase to reclaim the ball
And the first raindrops fell with a splatter.
But rain wouldn’t stop play today.
I did not anticipate to be sat
With the fervent and the famished,
Returned from maghrib prayer.
The devout devouring delicious
Bowls of steaming daal chawal and
Plates of moreish pillau rice.
The ire of heated arguments cooled by
Communal prayer and falooda.
Eyes flashing with the evening lightning,
Voices raised above the storm.
Yet here in this cafe, calm and friendship,
I did not understand the varied
Tongue that spiced the air with
Punjabi, Pashto and Urdu,
Fragrant and filling the cool night air
With flowing, cursive sound.
Yet I found welcome and grace
And passion and pride in the myriad
Streets and the plethora of faces that
All smiled in the same Lahori language.
The foreigner, a traveller, accommodated not just for a day and night as the Prophet PBUH said.
But accommodated forever in the heart.
Memories of a wonderful trip in the evocative Pakistani city of Lahore, 1996.