Khurram Siddiqi enjoys a complicated relationship with his hometown of Lahore, Pakistan. For one thing, he spent many years away from it, living and learning in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United States. In 2009, he returned for good, hoping to reconnect with both his family and his roots, and motivated to “uncover and share the city’s beauty, despite all the troubles it has gone through recently.” Here, he takes us on a virtual tour of some of his favorite places in the city — and gives a sense of some of those places so totally lacking in helpful signposting that he and his friends embarked on an ongoing project to design and install signs themselves.
“This is a picture of the Arfa Karim Software Technology Park while it was being built. Karim was a prodigy who rose to prominence through her skill with systems programming. Tragically, she died at age 16, and the software technology park that the Government of Punjab was already building was renamed in her honor. I love this picture because it was a lazy Sunday afternoon and people were playing cricket in the park. The contrast between the economic and educational echelons of most people in the picture and those who would later populate the software park is just mindboggling. Yet the divide exists, in plain view of both sides.” Arfa Software Technology Park, Ferozepur Road, Lahore.
“This is the street on which my dad grew up. It’s in a part of Lahore called Qilla Gujjar Singh, a part of old Lahore that’s not the walled city.” Qilla Gujjar Singh, Lahore.
“This is an old mansion turned housing and office space. It’s pretty central, on the commercial part of Lahore’s Mall Road. This view was taken from the back; a lesser viewed facade. Before partition, it was someone’s private mansion. Lots of the buildings along the Mall used to be owned by rich Hindus and Sikhs and are still named after them.” Mall Road, Lahore.
“This is one of the views at the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences. I teach undergraduate electrical engineering here, and my office overlooks the lawns of the main quad. I can almost see my house from my window too, which means I can go home for lunch and see my baby daughter!” National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, Milaad Street, Lahore.
“I took this picture in the middle of a market on Hall Road, which is where the majority of Lahore’s electronics can be bought. As you can see, it hardly looks like a technology market. Yet, some of the most essential appliances that run Lahore run on components that can be easiest and best found here. I like the contrast of it all.” Hall Road, Pakistan.
“Here’s a picture of Mall Road on a Sunday afternoon. It’s taken right outside Lawrence Garden, which was originally built to mimic Kew Gardens in England.” Lawrence Garden, Mall Road, Lahore.
“This is in Allama Iqbal Town. This street corner has all sorts of signage — except street signage. Chances are even if it had it, it would be so minute and poorly written that banners and poor municipal upkeep subdued it long ago. As part of our signage project, we spent hours here, balancing different sign options on top of onion sacks and car bonnets to get feedback from taxi drivers, vegetable vendors and residents.”
“This is a neighborhood I captured on a late night. It’s not really old Lahore, but a crevice of a poorer muhallah [neighborhood] in Gulberg, which tends to be very posh.”
Recently, I drove down to Molana Hasrat Mohani Road. I found it on Google maps, tracked it with GPS, turned on to it, hunted for a sign, reached the end of the road and made a U-turn. Nowhere along the entire road was there a sign with its name. I did manage to find the sign for a similarly named road — Maulana Sarfraz Naeemi Road, shown here. Both sides of the sign read in Urdu. Frankly I was surprised to find it at all; this is certainly not the norm.”
Read more about Khurram Siddiqi and his life and work in Lahore. This article was published as part of our “ Questions Worth Asking” series. This week’s teaser: “ What makes a city feel like home?”