This 17-Year-Old Artist's Heartbreaking Tribute To Lahore Is A Much-Needed Wake-Up Call For All Of Us

By Mashal Abbasi | 2 Mar, 2019

17-year-old Manal Dar is an artist in every sense of the word. Not only does she draw and paint, she’s also enrolled in an architecture program at a university in Lahore, where she currently resides. Manal moved to Lahore about a year and a half ago from Saudi Arabia, where she basically lived her entire life.

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Probably my favourite so far, not just because it's 'aesthetic' but because when I started this piece, I felt lost in life. I perceive it as a girl slowly breaking out of her sad shell and feeling happier, hence the transition from blue to red. (Or you can even look at it as her transitioning from the red to blue, its all about perspective.) The point is, you do not become happier in one day. It is a journey we are all on, and sometimes we find ourselves fully blue or fully red. What we need to remember is that *everything is temporary*. To some people this may seem like a terrible thing to be reminded of, but I find the perfect balance for life within these words. Because in times of happiness it reminds you to cherish the moment, and in times of sadness it reminds you to look forward to the future. Swipe to see #wip photos!

A post shared by Manal (@manaldraws) on

Manal puts pen to paper in more than one way:

“I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember,” she states. “Whenever I’m feeling too much of something – let it be sadness, happiness, disappointment – I’ll spill my emotions out either through my writing or through my art. The notes app on my phone is absolute chaos. I write EVERYTHING I’m thinking on there.”

It was a poem she wrote on Lahore that blew us away.

A heartfelt ode, a plea, a mishmash of memories tainted by reality, a piece that really eats at the heart. It was shared by her brother, Tallie Dar on Twitter, and has since then, received much attention.

The words of the poem are as follows:

My dear Lahore,
My childhood is filled with Saudia Airlines to kisses from Nana Jaan at Iqbal International
The eager ride to my grandparents house with the knowledge that my entire family will be waiting
Arms and smiles opened wide
All cousins crammed into one room
Staying up all night careful not to let our laughs escape the bedroom door
Narrating our favorite horror stories once the light goes out yet again
Poking each-other in the dark and snickering when the other lets out a startled scream
Driving to McDonald’s with only two hours of sleep in our bodies
Grabbing breakfast and reappearing before Nano Jaan realizes the car is gone

Running to the park and jumping in mud puddles
While my father grabs me and shouts ‘Gutter wala paani hai ye! Bemaar hona hai?
Shopping with my mother for hours on end,
Scouring Liberty’s markets for the perfect chooriyan
Giggling as we cross the streets,
And the children selling their magazines chase after us
Tugging on my mother’s dupatta at the sight of the shawarma stall
‘Ghar pe saaf sutra khaana bana hua hai’
Spending my entire night next to the toilet as my mother holds my hair back
And I release the contents of the breakfast I had

My dear Lahore,
You’ve begun to lose your charm as the years passed by.
Maybe I simply grew up, but I stopped eating from shawarma stalls and I started wearing a mask over my mouth.
Suddenly I seemed to notice how gray the sky was, or how often a child would come tapping on my car window at the traffic light.

My dear Lahore,
Maybe it is my fault for comparing you with the rest of the world
But it is also your fault
For the air pollution that caused my uncle’s lung cancer,
A man who’s never smoked a day in his life
For the gross smell I encounter every time I walk past the gates of the prestigious university you are oh so proud of,
The same place where you call people from all over, to give talks on water sanitation and preservation
For putting the corrupt in power and for all the harm they have done,
From the uneducated children with no future to every last beggar wandering the streets.

Maybe it is my fault, but my dear Lahore, it is yours too.

Manal wrote the poem for an assignment where students were asked to write a letter to Lahore addressing the issues it faces.

“My professor loved the poem and called my name out in the next class. I went home all giddy and told my parents about what he said, so naturally they made me read it to them as well. Next thing I know, my mom is tearing up and posting it on Facebook… and here we are.”

Manal writes from the heart, and is very passionate about wanting to make a change. She speaks in earnest about the socioeconomic environment of the city, particularly smog, lack of access to clean water and the scores of underprivileged children roaming the streets of the city.

“We must work hard to stop child labor and start to educate these underprivileged children. Not only do they need a future, but they will also determine ours.”

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the dreamer

A post shared by Manal (@manaldraws) on

Now that she’s older, Manal sees things differently, as is evident in her writing. However, the dearest childhood memories she has of Lahore are the simplest ones.

“I do want to clarify that although the poem is about the many issues that Lahore faces, it is still dear to my heart and I only wish to change it for the better. Indeed, there is no city like Lahore and I’m proud to call this place my home. We all have our duties as citizens to make an effort towards creating a safer, cleaner and happier environment for ourselves,” she insists.

How will you do your part to make not only Lahore, but all of Pakistan a better place to live? Let us know in the comments below!

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Cover image via Manal Dar

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