Hidden behind a maze of crisscrossing alleys of Bhatti Gate area of inner city Lahore, 24-year-old Mohsin Faraz’s residence is home to some of the rarest artefacts sourced from all corners of the world.
Strange-looking padlocks, ancient metal coins, utensils from the Bronze Age, 2,000-year old kohl pots and thousands of other trinkets and curios dating back to centuries, all line the many shelves of the antiquarian’s house.
Faraz, who is himself a budding archeologist, started building his collection when he was only 16-years old. His first artefact was a dusty-looking brass pot, he’d bought knowing little about its history. “When I went to an expert and had it assessed, it turned out to be an article of virtue from the golden-age of Hinduism, several thousand years ago,” shared the student of archeology. “Since then, my collection has grown manifolds as a labour of love. It took almost a decade, but now I have thousands of period pieces from not only ancient civilisations of Sindh, Harappa and Mehrgarh, but also Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Mughal, Sikh and British periods,” he added proudly.
Talking about his novice days, the antiquarian who wouldn’t shy away from venturing out to far-away foreign lands in his quest, said that he’d often be tricked into buying knock-offs and replicas in his first few years. “I did not know much then, but over the years I have trained my eyes to spot an imitation from miles away. The truth is, modern-day replicas, as hard as they try, can never master good old-fashioned craftsmanship,” revealed Faraz.
Buying antiques however, can be a very high-investment hobby, many a times, with little surety of authenticity and value. Much of Faraz’s collection, as he told, is built through trade, gifts from his friends and often lucky-finds from what’s considered junk. “I am in touch with collectors from around the country, which helps with trading artefacts. Other than that, a lot of my finds have been from other people’s collections, often sold, auctioned and even discarded by relatives after their passing. One man’s trash, can be another man’s treasure, after all.”
Talking about his favorite pieces from his collection, Faraz spoke of a Mughal-era dagger he’d procured a few years ago, the carvings on which are a work of art. “There’s also a gorgeous Japanese jar I’m quite fond of. It’s painted in gold water. The most special however are my kohl pots. I have some fifty of them that are exceptionally rare. The largest of them weighs over two kilograms and dates back to 2,000-years,” he zealously told.
However, with various international borders still closed and trade restrictions extant amid Covid-19, Faraz hasn’t ventured much out of his city in the last year-and-a-half. During much of this time, he has instead been committed to fulfilling a dream the young antiquarian has long-held. “There is no space in my house for these artefacts anymore, so I am working on setting up a Islamic museum building right here in Inner Batti Gate. I hope to display my entire collection here, for the benefit of tourists as well as students of history and archeology,” the budding archeologist told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2021.
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