A Walk Down Mall Road: Slow Acceptance
Mall Road is to Lahoris what the beach is to Karachiites: essential in understanding and mapping the city. This road is a constant in the city’s ever-changing landscape and has been a central feature of the love-filled literature that has been written about Lahore. Consider it a jugular vein and its surrounding areas but a vestigial part of the much greater whole.
I have always been intrigued by how much the city has to offer; how much has already been talked about it, how and how much is yet to be documented. On first sight, you see that the Maal (as it is colloquially and affectionately called) is filled with eateries of all kinds, some of the best cotton in the country, heritage and historical significance all packed into one. However, upon closer inspection, you become acquainted with the centuries of stories underlying all this.
Like a bride shying from the guests, Lahore does not open up to strangers easily. But once it takes you underneath its wings, the world it opens up is a sight to behold.
Walking down Mall Road, I realize that I too am a part of it; perhaps more than it is a part of me. I am one of the characters I have read about in novels, despite their being separated by time and mortality. I am the person watching all the plays staged at Alhamra. One with those who gaze as the sun sets over Punjab Assembly, trying to comprehend the color of the red bricks as they melt away from the sun’s brilliant yellow glow. I look at Mall Road and wonder how many layers of concrete now cover the footsteps of those who made this city so tall.
Throughout its path, until it dilutes to the more horizontal Lower Mall Road, the Main Maal keeps branching into various other smaller roads that bring you closer to the remnants of the British Raj and the Mughal Era. The road towards the back of Punjab Assembly, dips a little until you are at a crossroads between Hospitality Inn and Faletti’s Hotel. Here the intersection is so familiar to most English neighborhoods one sees on TV, that the resemblance is alarming.
Lush green trees populate the intersection of this road and flowers pop out of small decorative buckets; a picturesque scene taken out of a very long love-letter to this city. Lahore always boasts its best decorations on this road which can sometimes distract from the beauty of the space itself. Even in its barest, most unkempt state, the Mall fills you up with its sights, sounds and opportunities for reflection and engagement.