What does it mean to truly belong to Lahore?
Usually, the word ‘belong’ automatically links to permanence and continuity. No one feels as if they belong the first time they step foot in new surroundings. But with time, belonging turns into a natural state of being. Such is the case for most Lahoris. To call oneself a Lahori has less to do with how many generations of one’s family have lived and died in Lahore, and more to do with a sense of spacial connection.
A study titled ‘Migrations, small towns, and social transformations in Pakistan’ explores why and how migration has taken place within the country. Mostly, it has to do with economics. Previously, the town Chiniot – located on the bank of the river Chenab – was a tiny speck of a place famous because of its expert wood carvers and masons. Historically influential families enriched the town through investment, eventually shifting their businesses to the larger cities. Chiniot stayed where it was: ancient, traditional, brimming with potential now being focused elsewhere. A great number of Chiniot’s residents, however, migrated to Lahore.
This is one story amongst thousands.
There are people who have lived in Lahore their entire lives and truly feel a part of the city, but it is not their only home. They belong to far-flung villages in the north or south – villages their parents or grandparents left in search of ‘better’, modern pursuits. Lahore is not quite a huge concrete jungle but it does represent prosperity and hope for those with lofty goals. Often, being a Lahori doesn’t mean being able to trace one’s ancestry to the Lahore of 1947 – or further back. For most, that is immaterial. Lahoris are made, not born.