Left to rot, as most treasures of our heritage
The man told me that Allama Iqbal lived in that house from 1901-1905 and that was the place where he wrote his first poem inside Bhatti Gate
I was in search of a music band “hero band” as it is a dying art now. I entered Bhatti Gate and started looking for a place where it was located on the main trail. Passing through the artistic streets and vibrant aromatic shops and food stalls I came across a board with the band’s name. Happily I made my way into the office that was located on the first floor. The blue coloured building looked old and dilapidated. There, as I entered, I was awe struck. Instead of giving me an intro to the music band’s office, a man sitting there told me that it was the house of Allama Iqbal… yes, the poet of the east Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal.
The man told me that Allama Iqbal lived in that house from 1901-1905 and that was the place where he wrote his first poem inside Bhatti Gate. It was the terrible site for me. All my happiness turned into deep sadness; the house of Allama Iqbal has been converted into the office of a music band. What a depressing picture. Instead of the music band I got interested in the house of Allama Iqbal. The place was turned into an office, ugly and dirty with music instruments hanging on the walls. It was exceedingly decrepit and in shambles. The paint was chipping off and the building itself was appalling. To me or to any Pakistani even a footprint of Iqbal is precious, but I had never imagined that I would find it in such a fiasco.
The old man there told me that nobody was concerned to preserve the house; it was messed up already when the music band shifted there. I was sad at that fact. On the façade of the building, I was shown a plate stating Allama Iqbal lived there. What a shame it was to see the house of our hero in a dilapidated form. A little further down the lane, the man took me to a shop. That was the barber shop where Allama Iqbal often visited. Unfortunately the poor owner of the shop had recently sold the chair of Allama Iqbal which he had preserved since ages. The barber told me that his forefathers used to cut Allama Iqbal’s hair in that very shop. I could imagine how the poet of the east would be sitting on the gone chair, getting a haircut and thinking of eternal verses he penned down for us, and look, what we have done to his remains.
Anyhow, the man took me a little further. A few more steps down the lane I saw a door with a plate on it stating, “Thara Allama Iqbal”. Oh my God, that was the thara (a platform outside a house) where Iqbal would sit with other literary people living inside Bhatti Gate for discussions and literary sessions. I had also read about it in the Chelsea of Lahore, a book on Bhatti Gate, which is also now out of print and needs to be highlighted among heritage- and book-lovers. I think the book needs to be updated and reprinted. I wish somebody or some authority takes this step as well to preserve and update our history.
My question is that how many of us know about Allama Iqbal living inside our very own Bhatti Gate inside the Walled City of Lahore?
Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) is one of the greatest writers of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent and known internationally as the “Poet of the East”. While his primary reputation is that of a poet, Iqbal has not lacked admirers for his philosophical thought. He has in fact been called “the most serious Muslim philosophical thinker of modem times.” Iqbal wrote poetry in Urdu and Persian. Indeed, the attention he has received from literary circles from Western as well as Islamic countries corroborates his importance as an international literary figure. His house does deserve attention and preservation.
My question is that how many of us know about Allama Iqbal living inside our very own Bhatti Gate inside the Walled City of Lahore? The places Allama Iqbal visited must be preserved and promoted as tourist sites. At least a board can be placed there with a brief history. Why couldn’t we make this place like the Shakespeare’s or Ghalib’s house? Internationally such places are converted into museums and tourist spots why can’t any of us take this initiative in Pakistan? Well, for my readers a bit of good news is that the Bhatti Gate trail is being restored by the Walled City of Lahore Authority and the project will go on for almost two years. I hope these places are also turned into museums and tourist spots along with the restoration work.
For my friends who wish to visit this place, you can go to Bhatti Gate, which is one of the thirteen gates of the Walled City — the real Lahore. It is situated at the north of the old city with Taxali Gate on the left and Mori Gate on the right. The real name of the gate was Bhutti gate, and it is the point where Bhutti Warriors of Multan camped before the arrival of Mughals and with time, “Bhutti” spoiled into “Bhatti”. It was named after the clan living there. Bhatti was once known as the most literary area of Lahore. I will take another piece to write on Bhatti Gate’s literary circle and activities. Bhatti Gate also gave birth to many actors and sportsmen of Pakistan. I think this is the richest part of the Walled city and a must visit site.
The writer is a media professional and can be reached at[email protected]