Iqbal's house expands, month by month, as he scours the construction sites of the Walled City, collecting windows, doors, statues, and tiles from ancient, demolished havelis -- the graceful traditional homes of the rich. He incorporates these fragments into his home, so it has become an eclectic fusion of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh design. My room, on the third floor of the house, overlooks the biggest courtyard in Heera Mandi. It's the most beautiful room. It has three bay windows, each fitted with tiny panes of colored glass. The furniture and doors are of carved wood and the giant floor cushions, bolsters, and heavy curtains are made of golden and burgundy brocades. This room, like the whole house, has been assembled from pieces and images of old Lahore.
On the ground floor of the house Iqbal runs a restaurant where young couples meet for forbidden romantic liaisons during the afternoon. They sit in the back room and drink bottles of 7-Up in the summer and cups of coffee in the winter. The boys talk a lot and the girls giggle without reason or pause. In the evening most of the visitors are groups of well-heeled, arrogant men. At other times entire families come for an outing bringing Grandma, the babies, and assorted uncles and aunts. They dine at long tables and then traipse up to the roof to look at the Badshahi Masjid and the fort. As they pass my room I hear them puffing and complaining that the climb is steep and that there are a crippling number of steps.
The foregoing is excerpted from The Dancing Girls of Lahore by Louise Brown. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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