Lahoris stay indoors on 9th of Muharram

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LAHORE: As security for Muharram processions and majalis increased and people thronged Shia majority neighbourhoods and imambargahs all over the city, main roads of Lahore and markets were stripped of any movement. While traffic jams block main arteries of the city on a daily basis and traffic police face dire circumstances in regulating traffic flow at signals, Lahore was completely empty on Thursday. But unlike past terrorist attacks that left a sense of misery, tension and fear on the general public than Muharram itself, mood of the city this Muharram, was solemn yet relaxed.
In fact while on one side, mourners dressed in dark, grim clothes, were busy weaving their way from one majlis to another in order to listen to the best of ‘zakirs’, on the other side, entire households got together to spend a day out of the house. Piled onto a single motorcycle, especially children, families were seen riding up and down the Mall Road. Even then there were not many of them. A major stop was the Lahore Zoo, which is one place in the city that sees people drop in and leave at almost every public holiday in the year. “We get very few holidays and children want to go out have fun,” said Qadir Hussain, a low-grade government official who brought his family to the zoo. “It’s not meant for us as much as it is meant for the children,” he said. Within the zoo, it seemed as if life had stopped and nothing on the outside could affect the inside. Candy floss, ice cream, popcorn and other food items were being sold, while excited children tugging on their parents’ hands had to be restrained from running off to see the animals.
All main markets remained closed aside from only a few shops. Hall Road, usually a market, where maneuvering of even a rickshaw is difficult, had the isolated streets and lanes but a few mobile shops were open. But only a handful of customers could be seen, who had come for important work, and others who saw this as the best opportunity to stop by – something which they usually want to avoid on busy days. In the midst of everything else, high black flags known as ‘alum’ are set up in almost every area, topped off with a silver hand, denoting the ‘punjtan’. These ‘alums’ are set up to signify mourning and echoing voices of clerics and zakirs merge from one neighbourhood to the other while chants of sorrowful nauhaas and marsiya’s bring tears to eyes of the grief stricken.