The city of Lahore with its historically exalted landmarks, a culturally rich lifestyle and with its food being a phenomenon on its own, has also forever been out in the open for the blazing sun to frown on it as much as it wants. Consequentially, its people are not surprised when spring lasts for hardly a few days and summer seems to be back home by the end of March, 2017.
It is the 20th, to be exact, and a big day for students in University of the Punjab. The campus is enormous and the populace diverse. A group of young volunteers mill around in front of the campus auditorium and set up stalls. The items on display have been acquired by students especially travelling far up Northern Pakistan so that the collective effort wins at portraying the exuberance as central to the culture of a major faction amongst the university’s dwellers, the Pashtuns. The organizing committee is also a pure student body with girls and boys running all over the place making sure the hard work pays off. People begin to yawn and wake up and sure enough, they are gathering at the cultural fest dressed in flowy white shalwar kameez with embroidered waistcoats for guys and flowy, embroidered dresses in all sharp colors and patterns for girls. The celebration begins. There is music and attan. Then there is the noise of feet stomping and throats screaming slogans of violence.The attack has happened too soon and taking everyone by surprise, another ‘pure student body’ has razed it all to the ground. There is chaos when they start hitting everyone in the vicinity with bamboo sticks; they break the cultural items and set the stalls on fire. They yell bloody murder and claim to have served justice. Meanwhile, a girl who spent her night braiding her hair in a hundred tails to look like the mountain girls and now has a broken rib, eyes burning from the tear gas by the police who must have arrived at some time, a blood stain spreading on the delicate handiwork on her pretty dress and lies out on the road; thinks about what wrong she supposedly committed.
Now, why don’t we pause the tape and rewind a bit. Not long ago we see the two ‘student bodies’ fisting it out in the boys’ residential area over a girl and a guy sitting together in the park. We see one of the ‘student bodies’ assaulting a college resident over a Facebook status. We watch as the political parties whose names these ‘bodies’ represent laugh and ignore the effects of their agendas. We also sit and ignore this politicization of a prestigious academic institution gradually turning into a bloodbath and not caring who gets caught in the crossfire.
However, I guess that if politics in the country has been reduced to a dirty game of power, it is bound to rub off on the newbies. Or maybe it’s just the hot weather in Lahore.