[I recorded in a letter home that: ‘It was like coming home again to be in Pakistan after Afghanistan – could read the signs again; people are really friendly and we could have afternoon tea in comfortable seats set aside for ladies! What’s more, we were dropped to do our site seeing by a cricket match. It was great to sit on the grass in the sun watching cricket at the end of November!’
Lahore was where my grandfather, Robert Gorrie, went to work for the Indian Forestry Service in 1922, covering the Punjab and North West Frontier Province. My grandmother, Sydney Easterbrook took the long sea voyage out there to join him – they were married in the cathedral at Lahore in 1923. Yet it was only on reaching Delhi that I received a letter from Granny Sydney telling me this. I record that: ‘I wish I’d realised that she was married in Lahore Cathedral when I was there, then I could have gone and paid my respects.’
Much of the time my grandparents (mother and uncles) travelled and lived in the mountains – Simla and Dehra Dhun – but when based in Lahore they enjoyed a rich cultural life and friends across the racial divide of the colonial regime. In 1976 there were still traces of this pre-Partition world – in buildings and lingering attitudes of some tourists – but Lahore has been used to absorbing and outlasting waves of invaders. The result was a fantastic mix of architecture, tranquil gardens and seething street life.
SATURDAY 27TH NOVEMBER, 1976
“A whole nomadic village watched us eat breakfast! Hashish smokers.
Reached Lahore and drove up Mall. After short stop, bus dropped us near mosque by cricket match! Watched that in sun for a bit – really like an english summer – we attracted more crowds than cricketers. Saw several wickets fall – great excitement on field; very little defensive batting! (Probably schoolboys. Apparently the next day Pakistan were playing an International Eleven!)
Went round second biggest mosque in world (founded in 1000s but mostly built in 17th century – Badshahi Mosque) – really lovely gardens on way in with stone summer house in middle and pools on either side. Took off shoes at entrance – 2 typically “Anglo-Indian” types (Ronny and Adela – my reference to characters from EM Forster’s Passage to India) refused to give in their shoes and shouted at the attendent who eventually let them in – all very embarrassing.
Huge red sandstone courtyard with white dazzling walls. Padded across this to mosque proper. Huge red minarets and big domes – lovely cool marble floors, carpets under central dome, birds nesting above somewhere. Me and Sally sat on steps – made friends with some women and kids (one oldish woman was breast-feeding a young kid). Only spoke Urdu – wanted pictures taken – one woman had bright red hair and red stained fingers. All had jewels in their noses and cheap jewellery; very colourful though grubby, tatty nail varnish. Sally promised to send photo to them. Then several people wanted theirs taken too!
Rushed up a minaret – good view over busy streets of Lahore and over fort too. Felt weak and dizzy when got down – shows how unfit I am! Then me, Jan, Rob, Sally and Fran made our way to fort. Huge big round towers and battlements. Went and sat under tree in pleasant garden – talked with english couple that Rob had met in Esfahan; they’d been given knives at an ammunition factory in Khyber Pass. Lovely to sit in pleasant green surroundings – lovely flowers and trees. Walked around central building – stood on balcony built by Akbar the Great! (17th century, obviously beautiful pink tiles at one point. On outside wall of fort were remains of tiles with elephants on). View over lovely pool – fountains out of action. Jan and I not allowed in one part – think it was a mosque. Saw a bullock pulling a lawnmower! Wide stairs to the ramparts for elephants and bullet holes in the wall.
Made for old bazaar – had drink under some trees, talked with a couple of travellers – one had started out with his wife – didn’t know where she was now. Me and Fran were fired on by a bird from above! Went into bazaar – Frances had a climb on a scabby camel – nearly threw her off; kicks and howls of protest from camel! Attracted huge crowd. Bazaar was incredible place – stunk of dung and hash. Narrow streets crammed with colourfully dressed people, scooter rickshaws and tongas milling about almost running you down; no such thing as right of way! Streams of bullocks pushing past – one in a stall spat at us! Background rhythm of drums (as well as contant blare of horns) – several small shops making drums (men stoned out of minds with hash). Various stalls selling fried foods and sugar cane and pomegranate juice. Rob bought a big pipe.
We eventually got out by hiring a tonga – 5 of us and driver. Skinny horse. Incredible journey through bazaar fighting past other tongas. Millions of figures – skinny holy man with single piece of orange material wound round him and gold dangly earring from one ear; women in tongas completely veiled in small-pleated material.
It was a real fight to get out – at traffic lights all the tongas surge from either side like a chariot race at the poor unsuspecting police, with us stuck in the middle! (Dentist shops had huge diagrams of heads and details of mouth on boards outside). After taking pictures of us on tonga, another tonga driver appeared and posed with us! After GPO we went to expensive place on the Mall and had tea and patties and cakes!
Drove out several miles and camped in suburb called Gulberg, by hotel (use its washing facilities). Di and I wandered round square looking for boiled eggs. Ended up at grotty cafe and had cold chips and mangled eggs. Later in evening got a scooter rickshaw into Lahore with Di and Rob and Maree – mad driver.
In cinema [The Regal], blokes came round with trays of sweets, ice-cream, drinks, crisps and cups of tea! Hilarious trailers of films coming – “Inframan” and “Submersion of Japan” – ie will Japan follow Atlantis and what will the administrators do?! Main film was “Man About the House” – not a good film but it was great to see a familiar series and relax to a film for once.
When we came out loads of scooter rickshaws were waiting to take people back. Got an even madder driver – very draughty because doors were just on a small spring. (Mark and Pam made rude noises at another rickshaw thinking it was us. Rickshaw stopped and angry men got out – nearly got lynched!) Contikee group were at flicks – one very nervous girl (they’d had accident and bus had rolled – two injured; drivers ok).”