Three observations from Lahore, all from 2006.
Khan and Saeen
Thursday night is the night before the holy day of Muslims, Friday or Jumma. People fill the shrines in Lahore all over the city. I was sitting in front of Shah Jamal yesterday, sipping my Chai at 1 in the morning, watching the rush. A guy, 50 in age perhaps, with long dreadlocks reaching his behind, was crouching on a horse cart, looking slightly taken away by the Joints he was smoking. He was wearing a piece of cloth, not more. His follower, a young fair man who just wore a toga and heavy chains around his neck, was bustling between the horse and the Sufi, talking to each of them. His bare feet munched in the wet dirt road.
Rickshaws and motor cycles passed the place but an approaching truck with two huge freight trucks in the back could not pass. The driver of the first truck was an Afghani Pathan, not more than 40 in age, with a long black beard and a clean Shalwar Kameez. His temper became unstable when the Horse Cart didn’t move, only after some Rickshaws on the other side moved could he pass. But the other trucks were too big. Pathan boys jumped out of the Trucks, convincing the Mithai Wallah to move his store, urging Rickshaw drivers to leave. One could see that there was not a lot of respect in the Punjabi eyes for these hard working Pathan who had, even in the middle of the night, no time and interest for something like a shrine. Their day is work, sepereated by the 5 calls for Asan Prayer. But they treated the Punjabi folk with respect.
Even the driver of the small truck calmed down, was discussing eagerly with people and finally approached the Sufi. No way any truck could pass if he didn’t move. With a smile on his face, this proud, fair and tall 40 year old Maulvi, whose life was made of prayer and work, was trying to convince this crouched man who was a lot older than him. The Sufi moved slowly, showed no emotion and answered seldom, speaking in a very low voice. Inside the Afghan it was boiling, but he stayed calm. Confusion in his eyes, the Sufi finally ordered his horse to be moved, he stayed on the Cart in the same position. Slowly the trucks could pass and move in the next side land to unload. The Afghan was happy and was laughing, trying to find some base of communication with the people around. The Punjabis where suspicious, only some reluctantly made comments to him.
The meeting of this Afghan Pathan and the Punjabi Sufi, brought together two extreme contrasts of Pakistan…
Khan and Saeen II
Stepping down into the basement of a major Lahori Shopping Mall on Main Boulevard, you will find a Kids Garments store. Run by Ghulam Abbas. The most sought after Violoncellist in Pakistan. I met him at a recording for a new Asha Bohsle Album in a Jail Road studio. He is disappointed that I did not participate in the recording – I had my lazy weekend this week.
Ghulam Abbas had a teacher when he was small who taught him the G and C Major scale – then he passed away. The skill on the Violoncello he acquired from an Englishman from Dheli – Abbas points somewhere in the Wagah direction – he passed on to only two students. Abbas and his own son. Both are now the only Cellists you can find in Lahore. If there are other in Pakistan, let me know …
Ghulam Abbas plays a Violin style – he never learned the proper hand position. But he does the Violin E Minor Concerto pretty well with that. He knows how much his talents costs and tells me that one year ago he decided to open this shop when it became too much for him to get exploited in small recording projects. ‘An aranger asked me for the recording of a very difficult composition – 2000 PKR. I said: 10 000 and I’ll do it.’ There are no others around – still there is a lot of recording work for him to do. And for years he just survived with that and got his nine sisters married. When he tells me that the current recording was for Asha Bhosle he says that name like she was a girl who performs at the weekly Talent Hunt Shows at Alhamra. He’s done that before.
In the orchestra they call him Pappu Khan – they shout as he cant hear properly anymore. (…)
Khan and Hijra and Mickey Mouse
Liberty Market, Lahore, 2006