Anarkali rising phoenix like from the ashes

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  • The Old Anarkali food street is abuzz with activity despite the recent bomb blast, a testament to the resilience of the citizens’ spirit

Two police constables, as alert as the Punjab police force can be on a Monday, stand guard outside both gates of the Anarkali food street. A few shops remained shut, observing two days of mourning over the recent bomb blast, while the rest are abuzz with activity, a testament that life does indeed go on.

At least five people were killed and 50 others injured in an explosion on Saturday at the Al-Bukhara restaurant in the Old Anarkali food street. Preliminary police inquiries suggested that a time device had been placed between the chairs near the restaurant, which created a one-foot deep crater when it exploded.

The blast shocked Lahorites across the board, who had so far considered themselves immune to the frequent terrorist attacks that rock the nation. However, business has resumed as usual, and people are visiting the food street in large crowds, drawn by its many culinary attractions.

“This is a very famous tikki wala and it is many people’s favourite. This is nothing [pointing to the crowd], by 11, you will have to wait long hours to get a seat at the table,” said Mushtaq Ahmad a visitor at a restaurant told Pakistan Today.

“People are afraid post the blast, but the taste of the tikki is amazing,” he added.

While the area is known mostly for the various eateries it boasts, a patch towards the end houses shops selling traditional shoes and artifacts. Business seemed to be continuing normally in that part of the Old Anarkali as well. “People usually spend some time at our shop before going ahead to eat. Since it is just the first day after the blast, there may be fewer people going to the restaurants, but we have not observed any difference in the rush at our shops,” Manazir Ali, a shoe-seller told Pakistan Today.

Nevertheless, it cannot be said that the Old Anarkali’s landscape remains completely unaltered: police officers can be seen instructing groups of shop-owners about security measures and more than one police van usually patrols the bustling food spot.

Further, some of the shop owners have shut their restaurants to observe a two-day mourning period showing solidarity with those injured and killed. “After all those who died were humans and not animals; and the owner of Al-Bukhara Restaurant is our colleague, so we share his loss. That is why four of us have decided to suspend business till Tuesday,” said Chaudhry Mansha, a restaurant owner.

To a question, he said that people wee visiting the street as usual, and with the exception of these few shops, people were flocking to Old Anarkali to enjoy their food,with rarely a vacant table in sight.

Thus, the resilience of Lahore’s spirit stands affirmed: Lahorites swarm the Old Anarkali undeterred by the recent blast or the sweltering heat, eager to sample the man delights the food street offers. The destroyed Al Bukhara Restaurant looks on gloomily, a green cloth covering its damaged façade.