'The ancient whore, the handmaiden of dimly remembered Hindu kings, the courtesan of Mughal emperors’, the ‘Paris of the East’, Lahore is more than the grandeur of Mughal forts and gardens, mosques and mausoleums; the jewel colours of everlasting spring. It is also the city of poets, the city of love, longing, sin and splendour.
This anthology brings together verse and prose: essays, stories, chronicles and profiles by people who have shared a relationship with Lahore. From the mystical poems of Madho Lal Hussain and Bulleh Shah to Iqbal’s ode and Faiz’s lament, from Maclagan and Aijazuddin’s historical treatises and Kipling’s ‘chronicles’ to Samina Quraeshi’s intricate portraits of the Old City and Irfan Husain’s delightful account of Lahori cuisine, City of Sin and Splendour is a marriage of the sacred and profane.
While Pran Nevile paints a vivid sketch of Lahore’s Hira Mandi, Shahnaz Kureshy brings alive the legend of Anarkali and Khalid Hasan pays a tribute to the late ‘melody queen’ Nur Jehan. Mohsin Hamid’s essay on exile, Bina Shah’s account of the Karachi vs Lahore debate and Emma Duncan’s piece on elections are essential to the understanding of modern-day Lahore.
But the city is also about Lahore remembered. Ved Mehta and Krishen Khanna write about ‘going back’ as Khushwant Singh writes about his pre-Partition years in Lahore. Sara Suleri’s memories of her hometown, the landscapes of Bapsi Sidhwa’s fiction, Khaled Ahmed’s homage to Intezar Hussain and Urvashi Butalia’s Ranamama are tributes to memory as much as they are tributes to remarkable lives and unforgettable places.
Including fiction old and new—from Manto and Chughtai to Ashfaq Ahmed and Zulfikar Ghose; Saad Ashraf and Sorayya Khan to Mohsin Hamid and Rukhsana Ahmad, City of Sin and Splendour is a sumptuous collection that reflects the city it celebrates.