Wednesday, November 22, 2006


If people-watching is your thing, then Lahore offers plenty of opportunities to observe a colorful cast of characters going about their daily routines.

In my brief time there I saw some folks whose faces alone give indications that they have led interesting lives and have plenty of stories to tell.

For others, actions spoke louder than words. This man is holding a Pakistani flag and his shirt has the same moon and star emblem that adorns the country's national banner. His patriotism is unquestioned.

Consumption of food is an important part of the Pakistani lifestyle and various carts are all over Lahore offering a variety of items including barbecued meat, sweet potatoes and dates. If I spoke their language, I can imagine engaging these next three men in conversation, much the way a patron does with a bartender back in the U.S.

If you choose to watch people in Lahore, then you better get used to being watched as well, especially if you are a white person from the West. I was constantly stopped and asked where I was from, why I was in Pakistan, and what I thought of the country.

This was done both on a one to one basis and by a crowd of people. I didn't feel was a problem if the group was a bunch of school kids...

But when the crowd was mainly a bunch of males over the age twenty, I would be lying if I said that I didn't find the experience to be a bit intimidating. These guys didn't mean any harm, but when they surrounded me I honestly didn't know what to expect. I discovered that they were more or less an unofficial welcoming committee that took on the form of a rabble. They were curious as to why someone like me would visit their country. Additionally, they were not used to the situation and probably didn't consider that mobbing a visitor could feel threatening.

Everywhere I went, people wanted to take my picture and I was even asked to sign an autograph. One guy said:

"May I have a snap?" (as in snapping a photo).

I replied: "Why would you want a picture of me?"

"Because I am an English teacher and I want to show my students I met someone who speaks English."

This seemed like a sincere reason so I let him have his photo.

Other times, the crowds kept to themselves and did the same things they did every night, regardless of whether or not there were tourists around.

All in all, I found the citizens of Pakistan (specifically Lahore) to be a decent group of people with a lot of national pride. They are most likely aware that they have a certain type of reputation around the world, but as is usually the case, this reputation only applies to a small portion of society who for the most part ruin it for everyone else. The bottom line is that they love their country and want those who visit to love it as well.

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