As a teenager, the only two times I read Lahore’s name in TIME magazine was in the same edition of “Best Places in Asia”. Heera Mandi and Wazzir Khan had both made it to the list of best places. And while my brother had second hand information on Heera Mandi to share with me, we were both clueless about Wazzir Khan. SATs, crushes and college essays bombarded our lives and the name Wazzir Khan found a neglected patch in my head to squat on.
It wasn’t until last year when someone forwarded me their nikkah pictures and captioned them Wazzir Khan that I picked up the name again. Naturally, I went to K.
We found ourselves zooming past the railway station flea market into Delhi Gate.
We are impatient people. We took off our shoes and tumbled inside and then stopped in our tracks. What stood before us was a facade boasting the most intricate fresco we’d ever laid our eyes upon.
Maybe if I could just use my dupatta to dust off the walls, it would look new. But like a weatherd old Persian rug faded by the sun, no amount of dusting restored the patch I was working on to its imaginable previous splendor.
We moved forward, bribed the caretaker and climbed up to one of the four minarets of the mosque. Standing up there, you can almost imagine a bored imam peering into people’s verandahs, encountering neighbors on the street and preaching against their secret drinking and gambling habits.
Tall cylinderical buildings stand where big spacious houses would have been. Instead of verandahs, we saw rooftops. A family played carem, a girl chatted away on her cellphone, a boy smoked his first cigarette. We peered. We looked. We felt one with our city!
And when we climbed back down, we noticed the thirteen abandoned shops lined at the mosque’s entrance. I told you we are impatient people. Husbands would have picked up groceries on their way out of the mosque after Friday prayers. Perhaps grocery might have been sold by a hindu conducting business in the masjid shops. Maybe women were allowed in this part of the mosque too. Maybe..
As we drove away from the mosque, I twitched. Had I really encountered enigma in a mullah’s workshop where God’s word is black and white, literal and written in stone? Had a fading mosque really hosted a speck of God’s enigma? I looked out at the setting sun and smiled. In such moments, I’m grateful for the smog!