LONDON TO LAHORE
In 1978, my father defended his PhD at the University of Sheffield in the UK, and prepared to move back with my mother to teach at Lahore’s University of Engineering & Technology, from where he had come to the UK on scholarship. My father was a breakout child in the sense that he was the only one of his siblings to finish university education. Scholarships have funded his academics from first grade through PhD, all made possible by public institutions, in Pakistan.
When they moved to England in 1974, they survived on a mere £50.00 a month, with a little additional income from my mother who began to work at a cutlery store and Avon cosmetics in Sheffield. Whereas most fellow scholars from Pakistan worked to save money for life after returning to Pakistan, my parents chose to travel and explore Europe as much as possible.
By 1977, my mother’s savings allowed them to purchase a used Toyota Corolla at a fifth of the price listed, simply because that was all they had to offer the kind lady selling it. When the time to return to Pakistan came in the summer of 1978, they realized that they could either sell the car and finance the move back to Lahore by air, or keep the car and- use the rest of the money to drive the whole way to Lahore. The whole journey was risky and advised against because of the security issues at the time. In addition, my father had very little experience driving on international roads. 28 days of driving through Europe and Asia, they found themselves back in the city where it had all started for them: Lahore.
Along the way they took lots of pictures, and lots of chances. Their initial itinerary planned out for them by the AAA in London, they found themselves improvising driving routes and plans when they entered Iran, as they drove right into the storm brewing into Khomeni’s revolution. After Iran, they experienced Afghanistan just before the Russians moved in.
Throughout the journey, the Corolla gave them no major mechanical troubles, and my father drove the whole way. What they did experience however, was the world in a way they could never have imagined. Growing up as poor descendants of immigrants from India, the chances of them getting the kind of exposure they did through work and education, were very low. Despite this, the odds did work out for them. It was the public system that handed them all of these opportunities. It was the public school, the public college, and the public university that paved the way for my parents, who have tried to make the most of what’s come their way.
In 2009, I decided to move back to Lahore from California, for many reasons. One of them, was to clear the dust off the 1000+ slides of photographs my father took throughout this journey back to Lahore, and unlock the stories they held. I had the photographs for the postcards enclosed scanned right here in Lahore from the wonderful Bhatti Photographers. The cards were printed in Lahore by a printer I discovered by coincidence. Everything I have learned about photography and printing up to this point, has been virtually self taught, and again- the environment for all this was procured by Pakistan. My parents travelled the world on Pakistani scholarships, and more importantly, Pakistani passports.
The point I am trying to make, is that all this opportunity came through Pakistan, the unlikely savior in this case.
It was of paramount importance for me to switch roles in life, and get to know my parents and family again. I wanted to show you all, that all of this- the images, the postcards, the digital media files and most importantly these stories, could and do all come from Pakistan. My mother recently passed away, after a long and brave fight with pancreatic cancer, and I think that now more than ever, will be a fitting time to share these stories with the world.
I'll be happy to send you a set of the cards - do let me know.