Writer Pran Nevile revisits the city of sin and splendour
Pran Nevile barely looks his age as he briskly strides out of the India International Centre library in Delhi, clutching a handful of paperbacks. â€œThis is the one,â€ the octogenarian points to the third edition of his book Lahore: A Sentimental Journey (Penguin), which was released recently.
A former bureaucrat with the Indian Foreign Service, Nevileâ€™s story is the tale of Lahore, the city of his birth, before Partition displaced him along with a million others in 1947. â€œLahore Lahore hain (Lahore is Lahore),â€ he says, â€œThat city defies description â€” it is a wonderful melting pot of cultures. You have to be there to feel it.â€
Maximum cities â€” old, new and medieval â€” are the location of non-fiction that is becoming a rage in India. And Lahoreâ€™s new edition allows a passport-less travel across the borders. It takes you back to the 1930s and â€™40s before blood flowed in the city of sin and splendour â€” it was a cosmopolitan place where poetry and politics, Urdu and Punjabi, coexisted peacefully.
What is new though, in this edition, is an epilogue on Lahore revisited. It contains Nevileâ€™s recent experiences of the city that is at once the source of his nostalgia and the focus of his social commentary. â€œA lot has changed, for the better and for the worse. Now women are more active in issues like empowerment and education,â€ says Nevile, whose interests include art history and music.
So next is a coffee–table book, Marvels of Indian Painting: Rise and Demise of Company School, due to be published in March. â€œI spent five years researching the book. It is a genre that has rarely been written about,â€ says Nevile. He is also busy organising a programme in memory of singer Malika Pukhraj whose voice once made boundaries meaningless. He walks away, his fascination for the Raj and the LoC-less days as company.