Lahore has been the cultural and literary hub of Pakistan since ages. The places over here have some kind of magic in them that grabs the attention of every artistic soul. A lot of legendary personalities came here and stayed permanently due to its divinity. Pak tea house is one of the enchanting places of Lahore which became the house of writers, thinkers and revolutionists of the golden time.
Pak tea house has seen the face of almost every luminary of that time. It has heard their voices and felt their presence. It has seen those bright days when the artists would spend their entire day sitting there. Nasir Kazmi wrote his best poems in that era while Ashfaq ahmed wrote Gadarya in that time. This was the era when literary work was at its peak. The poems and stories of that time are a precious asset of today’s urdu literature.
The tea house has its own history. It started in 1940 by a Sikh named Boota Singh as the India Tea House on the Mall Road near Anarkali bazar, Lahore. People from different walks of life and school of thoughts started sitting there and shared opinions. In 1944, it was taken over by two sikh brothers Surtej Singh and Kaiser Singh. It remained closed during the partition and after the independence of Pakistan, in 1948, was allotted to Sirajuddin Ahmed who renamed it as the Pak Tea House in 1950.Amongst all the other tea houses of Lahore, Pak Tea House was the most famous one as it was frequented by the city’s artistic, cultural and literary personalities including Saadat Hassan Manto, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Nasir Kazmi, Ahmed Faraz, Shorish Kaashmiri, Muneer Niazi, Intazar Hussain and others. The iconic personalities would spend hours together talking about politics, art, literature and revolutionary ideas or to rise a call against a military dictator.
Pak tea house also hosted literary and political meetings by organizations like the Pakistan People’s Party, the Progressive Writer’s Association and the Halqa-e-Arbab-e Zauq. The café had a fearless culture of speech where people would share their opinion without any fear or external influence. Everyone had the freedom of speech even during the martial law regimes.
The café went through a lot of ups and downs. In 1999, the proprietor of the café Zahid hassan, who took over the café after his father’s death, decided to shut it down and open a tyre shop instead. This raised a strong wave of protest among the literary people of Lahore. Due to their efforts it got reopened in 2000. In 2006, it got shut down again and at last it was inaugurated by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Shareef on 23rd march, 2013.
Pak tea house has some nostalgia attached to it. Although the interior, the menu and everything about it has changed. Still it holds a special place in the memories of those who know about the Lahore’s vibrant literary and cultural past.