A city in flesh and blood: Pran talks about shared Pakistan-India heritage


LAHORE: “The governments of both India and Pakistan should make it feasible for people from both sides of the border to meet. There should be an exchange of young students and colleges on a regular basis. Towns and cities of Pakistan should have ties with sister cities in India,” author Pran Nevile told The Express Tribune on Thursday.

Nevile said peace between the two countries was important for the youth. It would allow them to meet each other and realise that they share a common culture and heritage.

Nevile was born in 1922 in Lahore’s Walled City and moved to Nisbet Road at the age of 15. He moved to India in 1947 and did not return to the city until the first edition of his book Lahore: A Sentimental Journey was published in 1993. Speaking about his book, Nevile said “I wanted to preserve those images of Lahore and my life there, to keep them intact.”

Nevile recalled that his close friend Khalid Hassan used to call him ‘chalta phirta Lahore’, comparing him to Manto who was called ‘chalta phirta Bombay’.

Nevile served in the Indian Foreign Service, which he left in 1979 to join the United Nations. He said he was India’s representative for the Soviet block for 12 years. He left the UN in 1987 when he became a freelance writer.

“I was doing research on the performing arts and also writing on my beloved city and home town Lahore. I wrote a few essays on Lahore, including Fazal is Pimp of Lahore and Dance of Fireflies. They were immediately published by the Indian magazine Debonair in 1990”, Nevile said. He said this motivated him to work on his book on Lahore. He added that he had been requested to add a chapter about his days in Government College Lahore for Pakistani readers.

Nevile urged the Pakistani government to preserve old monuments and historical buildings in the Walled City of Lahore. He said he also appreciated the Ajoka Theatre’s efforts for social change. Nevile said sufis and their heritage was common to India and Pakistan, and had the potential to bring the two countries closer.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2014.