After listening to a colossal number of stories about Pak Tea House, I decided to give this place a visit. The place was cozy but nothing at all like the hype it was supposed to live up to. Kind of just like any other tea house or coffee place, in the city, I feel. The words “Since 1948” inscribed on the front door were enough to make me nostalgic, amusingly of the times I wasn’t even born in. But that was kind of the extent of how intellectually stimulating, if you will, the place was.
The times are changing and so is our taste.
Most of us spend our nights listening to old songs (and God knows, we respect and enjoy them more than anything), we, however, need our kind of music every now and then. This is where the sad saga of Pak Tea House comes in.
What was once a hub of the city, nay, the region’s literati, Pak Tea House, incidentally known as the India Tea House during its heyday, was renovated to much fanfare and appreciation for the government’s efforts to restore the legacy of what led to some of the iconic cultural figures that the people of Indian subcontinent have ever seen.
Everyone had been raving about the place. Students, professors, artists, writers and “regular” people were flocking to set foot in the same place that was once frequented by the likes of Saadat Hassan Manto. I was intrigued and decided to take a trip down to the historic Anarkali market of Lahore.
The state of the place led me to comparing it with places of intellectual debate that we have today.
Given the changing land dynamics of Lahore, a majority of the population of the city has moved to places like Defence, Gulberg and the surrounding areas. Does that, by default, imply that they are not interested in literature or arts anymore just because the route to Pak Tea House takes them forever to reach what was called the hub of Lahore’s Intellectual life, in the past? No, of course it does not.
We have now places like The Last Word, Books n Beans etc. located in Gulberg that are easier to get to, for a majority of the city’s population. These place are always bursting with art and literature aficionados, quite contrary to what our parents and older generation keep telling us.
Aside from its cozy atmosphere and the incredible portraits of the writers and thinkers of the past, the place was not charming at all.
It was a manifestation of the fact that the place was no longer being taken care of. The wall paint was peeling and consequently, crumbling at several points, the washroom (there is only one) was flooding with muddy footprints and water, the food was pathetic and so was the service. I, no way, mean to undermine the Pak Tea House that it once was but it, most certainly, wasn’t the Tea House everybody keeps raving about, either.
Here, the question arises, how do we preserve the window to our rich cultural past – that is the Pak Tea House? The answer is we innovate and try to adapt to the changing literary circumstances. No, this is most certainly not conforming to the “spoiled generation”. Instead, this is just the “jidat pasandi” the renowned poet of the Pak Tea House, Habib Jalib talked about, repeatedly. It is the need of the hour that Pak Tea House focuses on revamping itself by maybe hosting literary events that grab our generation’s attention. Also, there is absolutely no harm in keeping the place clean. I am certainly positive that cleanliness will only bring its glory back and not the other way around.
Cover Image via: dawnadvertiser.wordpress.com