A conspiracy in Lahore

Come monsoon and it brings with it the good and bad of the season; the infrastructural flaws and seasonal fruit

Intezar Hussain June 01, 2011
The best thing about the clouds over Lahore’s skies is that they do not linger. They come scudding, shower various parts of the city with their respective shares of rain and take their leave. If they arrive in the night, they get done by morning.

If they darken the horizon in the morning, they are finished by evening, having restored to the city its brilliant sun. However, this is not the way monsoons are known to behave. Once they arrive they do not leave in a hurry. The rain goes on and on until azans are called from the mosques and special prayers said to send them away.

But maybe that was seasons past. The times we live in are better known for their lightning pace. The bipeds all over the globe are in a hurry. Maybe the monsoons too have adapted to the times. Even in this some people see a conspiracy against Pakistan – a conspiracy to expose the ineptitude of officialdom. Those behind these clouds believe apparently that exposing Water And Sanitation Agency (WASA) alone is enough to convince the world that all official claims in Pakistan are hollow.

The conspiracy, it seems, extends to embarrassing Pakistani engineers. An hour to an hour and a half of rain is all it takes to show the flaws in the planning of the city settlements – from Gulberg to Defence.

But let’s change the subject. If it is not Lahore’s fate to enjoy the monsoons’ bounty, what can one do about it? One can neither stop the rains nor make the city officials do their duty. What is the point then in dwelling on an unhappy subject? Let’s talk instead about the yellow melons, no longer so sweet, and the yellow mangoes, ripened finally by the grace of God.

Mangoes are deservedly the most popular fruit in South Asia. No wonder every little South Asian child cries out for mangoes in the rainy season.

Let me cite Allama Iqbal on this. He writes: “Mangoes have an attraction no weaker than that of learning. It is no exaggeration to say that it is the only edible I am fond of…” The poet is known to have been used to requesting friends in far off places to send him choice mangoes. Many friends and admirers sent him the seasonal gift on their own.

And jamun? The two go together but so often while talking of the mangoes we forget the jamun. Allama Iqbal has mentioned jamun in one of his letters but it is only to recommend the use of its kernel as a medicine for diabetes.

The truth is jamun and the monsoons are closely linked in the region, but in Pakistan few people have been fair to the tangy purple treat.

Strangely very little jamun sells in Lahore. You hardly ever see it in the bazaar but visit the Lawrence Garden and you will see lots of it scattered under the trees. The adventurous pick it up and carry it home. If you take a walk along the Upper Mall you notice that whole stretches of footpath are purple with the fruit fallen to the ground. But talk to a street vendor and he wants an arm and a leg for a handful as if it were an exotic import from a far off land.

*Translated from Urdu

Intezar Hussain An eminent Urdu fiction writer who writes short stories and novels, and also columns for newspapers in English.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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