Earlier this month, Lahore’s Ferozson’s bookstore caught fire, and was gutted thoroughly. I was on Mall Road this week with a camera, and I desperately wanted to see what it was like. I grew up abroad, and we’d spend the summers in Lahore as a child. And for me, ‘Zero Point’; the most central locus of Lahore, as for many other Lahoris who enjoyed reading and writing as kids- was this building. It’s like I lost a solid part of my historical bearing in this city.
Ferozson’s is an old publishing house and bookstore- whose name and fame may have slightly dulled over the last few years- as happens to many family businesses, but I’m pretty sure the special place it occupied in every literature-loving persons heart never closed.
You see, it’s not just a bookstore. It’s not just a publishing house. It’s this place, in an amazingly historic and vintage building located on Mall Road- right around where the commercial buildings start. So Ferozeson’s being monumental, was not just due to the immense contributions they’ve made to print and publishing in Pakistan- but also from an architectural perspective- the physical landmark they existed as.
The guards at the building initially told me to get lost- because when things like these happen- reporters and public press are usually kept away from private businesses. I obliged at first, but then realized that when you’re an institution- even if you are a private firm, family business, or whatever- when you’ve made that much of an impact on the lives of people around you – you’re not just a business- you’re an institution. I waited for the guards to walk away- snuck back and took these pictures. I just had to.
Because someday soon this whole mess of melted metal and burnt books will be cleaned up, and sent to some trash dump at the edge of the city. I don’t know what form the reincarnation will come in, but charm- isn’t something you build over a day. I just wanted to pay tribute to the what I know must be the truest icon- the oldest memory of Lahore as a city for all those who value education- before it too bites the dust.
Mangled, burnt and distorted- perhaps even painful to look at- this is Ferozson’s- after the fire.