I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Friday, June 17, 2011

....Of Leaving Lahore And Long Overdue Admissions.

When I was in Med School, a yearly trip to Lahore was an almost sacred ritual. For a few days every year, spending a sizable chunk of my meager allowance/stipend, I'd grab a bus to Lahore, happily explore the city on rickshaw, meet the few friends I had there and get some shopping done. Summer or winter, I'd make it a point to visit Lahore, even if it meant using false pretences to goad out a permission from my parents. Even though I had lived a sizable chunk of my life in Rawalpindi and hadn't ever LIVED in Lahore, I considered it my , erm my spiritual home if you will. However, when my five years in med school ended and it was time to decide where I wanted to do my house-job, I was in a fix. My family was in Rawalpindi (they'd planned to eventually move to Lahore in a year's time) and I knew and liked the city, but somewhere in the back of my mind was the voice that said, "Go to Lahore!!"

In the end, it was the advice of a friend - a friend of otherwise highly dubious character traits - who implored me to choose Lahore, that, coupled with my parents' decision to bring forward their planned Lahore move ahead by one year, made me decide for Lahore. Looking back, it was probably one of the smarter decisions I've made in a rather checkered decisionmaking history. After spending one whole year in Lahore, I can safely say that I haven't regretted it one bit. I had come here primarily to do my housejob and that I did. It was the most intellectually rewarding one year I could hope for, even better than what most of my coursemates in Rawalpindi had spent. I got the chance to learn at the feet of some of the best teachers in the country and substantially improve my practical and clinical skills. On the personal side, I was lucky to have two of my closest friends -make that three, with the third a recent addition - living literally next door. That meant I was never too hard pressed for companionship.

The exploring/photographing bug bit me at just the right time as I scoured the backroads of Lahore in search of amazing places. If summer had delayed itself just one or two more weeks I'd have visited and photographed just about everything I'd set my sights on. Unfortunately the oppressive Lahore heat (probably the only thing in which Lahore loses brownie points to Pindi) and my tight schedule meant that I still haven't visited or photographed a few very important landmarks - Masjid Wazir Khan for example. Some other time perhaps. It's also been a year where I've indulged almost all my rather varied intersts. I've been to Qawwali performances by the dozens, watched plays and stand-up shows, attended concerts and conferences, and in what must certainly be the highlight of my life so far, met Yusfi sahab. And I've eaten, by God have i eaten. The extra tonnage that I've put on over the last year doesn't do justice to my culinary exploits. In short, I've lived it up - at least according to my definition of living it up.

My one year is now up, and it's time to leave. I'll be moving to a rather remote location in two or three days, as diametrically opposite to Lahore as you can imagine. Even though I knew that I was gonna have to leave Lahore at the end of one year, that still doesn't make the departure any easier. I may be able to live without the food, the exploration or the 'ronaq' but there's one very vulnerable chink in my armor, one that I don't usually let show to others,but one they might notice if they are attentive enough.

When we were completing our training, a newly graduated psychologist joined us for six months. The poor guy had to spend all day dealing with idiots who'd shout out,"Yo shrink, come here and tell me about my personality." And being the nice guy he was, he'd provide them with a rather detailed and unflatteringly accurate description of themselves. One day, when he and I was alone, he asked me why I hadn't ever bothered him with the usual request. i replied that I pretty much knew who I was and didn't need further analysis, thankyouverymuch. He said he'd still tell me one rather important thing he'd noticed about me over the course of six months, it was that I had a 'dependant personality'. I needed people, friends around me to function properly. Without a proper social support structure, I was constantly in danger of collapsing inwardly into a coccoon. I simply nodded my head in assent and left, slightly unhappy that he had discovered my most important weakness.

And that is the chink in my armor that must now confess to. I'll be going to a new place, with a new set of colleagues, which is something I would've been fine with were it not for the fact that the remoteness of my location might make it impossible to establish any contact with the folks back in Lahore, or for that matter anywhere else in Pakistan. Without my 'social support', I'd be a fish out of water, which is a rather frightening proposition. But what gives me some hope is that I've been in a similar situation before. Five years ago when I joined med-school, I was thrust into a group of strangers. It took some adjusting, but after spending five years, I count that group of strangers among some of my very best friends. Maybe this adventure'll turn out the same way too. I can only hope.

What my two year stay at my next port-of-call will lack in friends, it'll more than make up in free time. From people who've served in similar places, I've gathered that killing time is the most important problem one faces. I think I have that covered. There's the extensive study that I'll have to start in order to appear for my specialization exams, then there's the Truckloads of Qawwali recordings that I've been assigned to edit and catalog. There's 160+ gigabytes on my harddrive that I'll devote substantial time to; so that at the end of two years, I ought've listened to all 19571 songs I've accumulated (a daunting task). A trunkfull of unread books goes with me too, none of them related to medicine. With such ample supplies, I think I'm pretty much covered as far as killing time is concerned. And if all else fails, I can still write.

I'll end here, I don't know when I'll get the chance to write again, so readers can consider this another one of my temporary retirements from writing. Consider this also, whether they can read this or not, a thankyou to all the many people who have made this year the most special year of my life. And finally, consider this a thankyou to Lahore, for being so good to me.


  1. Musab, a touching tribute to my native city for which I have unending fondness despite all the bad that has happened to it. It was moving to read about your encounter with Lahore. Please do keep writing even as you move to the next phase of your life. Reading your blog has been a genuine pleasure and I feel old saying it but I have felt a real joy in knowing that there are culture loving young Pakistanis like yourself. It has warmed by heart. Keep going strong and take care!!

  2. Nice blog with an eeriy simiilar set of interests, Pakistan, photography, Lahore, Dylan! Perhaps you're my doppelganger~ Good luck with your next move.