Travels to Lahore

Lahore. 7th March. Kinnaird College literary event. Its my last day of my 5 city literary tour of Pakistan. I am ending it with a literary event hosted by Kinnaird, one of the top colleges for women in Pakistan. I have visited this college 11 years before under the auspices of the British Council – a time when I first launched my first novel – The Holy Woman. I have very pleasant memories of those days. I am particularly delighted to be visiting it at a time when they are busy celebrating college’s centenary.

On the way I get to see more of Lahore, the prettiest parts of this city, the former Mughal capital of India. With its concentration of showing squalid bazaars and life of inner city, on western TV, you very rarely get to see the ‘ better’ parts of Lahore. I see some buildings with the wooden lattice work and am still wondering if any one has taken on the project of documenting these buildings dating back many centuries.

I enter the college gates. It’s a lively women’s world. Lots of young elegantly dressed women are walking everywhere, the gardens are beautiful landscaped. Later I am told that the college has won horticultural awards for this. There are colourful banners everywhere swinging in the warm breeze under the sun, celebrating ‘ One hundred years of educating women’. This college alumini is supposed to be very impressive.

As elsewhere I am warmly welcomed by the whole team of the English department. There is Prof. Nasreen Pasha, the woman I connected with first, her colleagues, Prof. Nadia Anjum, her younger staff member Amna and Mehvish the student who escorted us into the building. One or two staff members I have met before. I admire their elegant clothes. Many teachers and students have read my novel ‘The Holy Woman’.

The English department is housed in an elegant brick lined building, giving it a feel of Victorian times. I am taken to the staff room and memories of Keats come rolling back as a I see a glass cabinet pinned with copies of keats old letters. Another board is devoted to William Shakespeare. There is this definite ambience of English literature about this place.

It is a very lively and interactive session, with readings and with lots of wide ranging questions including, any on the art of writing and the process of novel writing. There is an atmosphere of warmth and gaiety including during the signings of the books. There are long queues. The Holy woman runs out. Teachers have brought their own copies.

Later after refreshments of samosas and other snacks, I am taken to the Principal’s office and have a very productive meeting with Prof. Rukhsana Davis, dressed in an elegant saris, discussing future workshops on education matters. I am really enjoying the company of all these female staff members and as we pose under the banners for the official photos, we all know we have built a very warm relationships and again I leave a very happy woman, delighted at the work of the students and teachers. I know Kinnaird will always feature for all my future visits.

It is time to go home. Back to the UK The tour has ended. On Monday as I enter a college on quality monitoring work, I know the writer will be brutally brushed aside as the educationist takes over. I can’t complain. For I have had over 3 weeks of being the writer on a literary tour!