Monday, Jan 24, 2022
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Passage

On An Ancestral Trek

A Punjabi adage: one who hasn't seen Lahore hasn't been born. A birthday boy's account.

On An Ancestral Trek
On An Ancestral Trek
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Then I discovered one Mela Ram Road in Lahore, close to the legendary Anarkali Bazaar near Bhatti Gate. If you think it was named after my grand-uncle, then you are deceived. It was named after the great 19th century elite Rai Bahadur Mela Ram who owned a spacious haveli in that locality. His son Rai Bahadur Ram Saran Dass, a great patron of the arts, celebrated all major Hindu, Muslim and Sikh festivals with great fanfare at his bungalow. The illustrious list of invitees included Allama Iqbal, Sir Abdul Qadir, Raja Narindranath, Sikandar Hayat Khan and Sardar Joginder Singh. Rai Bahadur Mela Ram was one of the key contractors when the Lahore-Amritsar railway was being laid out in 1880.

Bringing the railways to this 'Pearl of Punjab' meant laying waste to a large number of mosques, palaces, gardens and other old city monuments. For four decades till the arrival of Lord Curzon, a lover of Indian archaeology, the Britishers tried to expunge every Mughal or Sikh sign from Lahore to make military barracks, schools, hospitals and railways. But overall, they enriched the architectural heritage of the city in a remarkably unconventional 'Mughal-Victorian' style: The Lahore College (where Iqbal studied), Foreman Christian College, Lahore Railway Station, among other buildings, are a testimony to this fact.

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