Text and pictures by the eminent Punjabi poet Amarjit Chandan
The Pak Tea House – originally named as Lahore Tea House in the mid-1940s – and Indian Coffee House in Jalandhar were the twin institutions of the post-1947 Punjab, which were the haunts of third generation Punjabi intellectuals mostly with leftist leanings. They were mini light houses in the seascape of Punjabi culture. In my college days I was a regular at the coffee house and made many life-long friends there.
Jalandhar being the centre of Punjabi newspaper industry and headquarter of Communist groups attracted journalists and activists otherwise still it is a philistine town. (Photo right –Bearded with glasses and without turban on right is the short fiction writer Prem Parkash. He visited Lahore last month and met with Intizár Husian too)
On my first visit to Lahore in 1998, I was so overwhelmed by the city with its turbulent long history interspersed at every step that I rarely took my camera out of my bag. I needed more space and time to fathom its soul.
From my Lahori friends in London especially Amin Mughal I had heard so much about the Pak Tea House. (Unlike Paris there is no coffee house culture in London).
When Akram Varraich took me there it proved to be anti-climax. It looked liked a dhābā. The façade of the small building was almost covered with the piles of used motor car tyres. The interior smelt of fresh dark blue paint on walls. A handful of customers – mostly bored toilers – were sitting on kitsch tables. Photographs taken by me that day reflect its ambience. Continue reading