Wednesday, 28 November 2012

About Shahi Muhalla

I visited the infamous Mohalla some months back with some friends, all my friends were serious students and visited Lahore from time to time, some loved the food others had an appetite for Basant (kite festival).

The old city is where the infamous Mohalla is located, the old Lahore city has around 13 gates, may be most people are familiar with the Ravi road, if you go to the Taxali gate through any of the neva chetram, ucha chetram, shiekhupurian road u will reach the novelty chowk, where u can see the main bazaar of the Shahi Mohalla, right next to it across the chowk is the Heera Mandi. Societies use myths, to hide the guilt. Same is the case of the Mohalla, the focus should be on the “bad people” who come to the Mohalla and are part of our so called elite, people of the upper class and I came to know many of the clients of this Mohalla were people in the senior bureaucracy.

The red district is generally referred to as a place which has drugs and prostitution flourishes admits poverty, the taboos are really which makes it. We always think of the Mohalla where we will find prostitutes and their managers, stories and myths constantly reinforce the idea that it’s a bad place to be. People say, which sure is another myth that women who can’t find a man end up in this area, yet they forget the tender details that it’s a business and people harvest young women like they harvest chickens.

One can’t ignore history “an area is as famous as the people make it”, true is for Sialkot and its markets, they are called Kanjar (the red people) it is their traditional business, and if you are born into the Mohalla you are sure to become a prostitute. So it’s not the girls who are to blame that they didn’t have character, either they were born into this Mohalla or sold off by their parents who couldn’t afford their needs. Me and my friends wanted to see the fort and enjoy the tasty and Desi (local) food of Lahore,

we didn’t knew when we entered the Mohalla, the people the hustle and bustle on the street, the donkey carts, Rickshaws and people selling fruits on the street, the old architecture still the same if you go to any other gate, there were boys playing cricket, one could walk as a free man here. On asking for direction’s, these people are famous for asking questions and giving directions according to signals, we came to know that we were in the Mohalla, the Mohalla at day is different from then what it is at night. That was my first entrance into the red district.

At night the Mohalla was full of people, the streets were crowded, we had the pan wala’s the small restaurants that served the guests, and by far I think the Lamb Curry and the Pistay wala Dhood (local Milk) was a cherished treat of the area.

There was something everybody could notice at night the big windows of these houses would open as if they were inviting, the entrance was about 4 feet above the ground so every walking customer could see what did they had to offer. The Baithak (large room) had no doors and were often covered with only a light cloth. Inside women sat on the floor in the middle or sometimes on sofa’s giving it a western look, may be for another class?

It was a market as they called it bazaar e husn (market of beauty) and on display were beautiful women dressed in fine expensive clothes, with bright colors, all was too tempting and all was too exposing.

Curiosity and questions all I thought, the taboos the myths, it made me think of writing this article, so it led me to the bazaar again (Mohalla), it was clear in my mind that I only wanted to explore the life, how people live in a place in such a big city, and still we don’t know them. At night I saw women standing on the balconies coming and going peeking men and commenting on them, that is why they call them the Kotha’s. Kotha means the roof or the upper story, and when you walk the steps above you enter the fate and fame of this Mohalla.

Finally me and my friend X (name is not mentioned as per policy of the blog) selected a room, a step closer to reality in an Islamic state, as we entered a lady in her forty’s greeted us, the lady lord of the house, me and X were attracted by the ghungroo, this meant they were also dancers and not only singers, one must know that this place is famous for producing quality singers and dancers and many plays you see and many cultural events you go to from Marriot to Serene to PC to Lok Virsa, all these artists have their roots linked to the Mohalla.

We sat on the carpet and were made comfortable with the pillows, there were musicians ready to play tabla and harmonium, when we were comfortable the lady lord asked us, gentlemen what would you like to hear (in Punjabi), we said anything they can best dance on, with that the musicians started to play, the girls were really good at dance, it showed their attitude, they also made some sexual gestures and seduced my friend X and later on me from time to time, it’s the local rule that if we like the dance we are to shower them with money, unfortunately we didn’t had open change, now I know why there were so many money changer’s and little boys in the house, I asked the little boy to get me some change but it was too late, my friend had to shower the red notes (PKR 100) and the girls made sure we left empty. So now it showed me their attitude and their commitment. We gave away 2,000 PKR that night, a good bargain to right an article and put some light on the district. I still had to explore the real cause, why this Mohalla was famous?

The government allows the activity only from 11 to 1 in the night and the people make sure they cash every bit of it. Prostitution is still illegal but one can see the intent behind laws that are legal.


We must realize that if we are tough with the people of the Mohalla it will make them shift and prostitution will spread elsewhere in Lahore, same was seen in Sialkot. We have to be strict with the PIMPS and not the poor souls of the Mohalla; we have to stop their source of income. I might think that 11 to 1 makes them legal but it also limits their income, limits the people who go there at such time of night, and only allowing them dancing and singing, it’s like killing the snake from the head. But prostitution cannot be ignored, I will try to give you more details and more accounts of happenings in the Shahi Mohalla in the future parts.

“An area is as famous as the people make it”, we must eradicate the poison of prostitution from the society, the government needs to curb it be giving an alternate measure to the people of the Mohalla and we as youth must change the way we think and come out of the taboos at least for now”.

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