'The heart, stomach and backbone of Pakistan': Lahore in novels by Bapsi Sidhwa and Mohsin Hamid

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Although much research has been undertaken on Indian cities, particularly Bombay/Mumbai, Calcutta/Kolkata, and Delhi, Pakistani urban environments have not been subjected to anything like the same degree of scrutiny. There already exists a long and rich history of artistic and textual interpretations of the city of Lahore, but this body of work has gone largely unappreciated in academic scholarship. To redress this critical gap, the article examines fiction by two diasporic authors from the Pakistani Punjab, Bapsi Sidhwa and Mohsin Hamid, for their representations of Lahore as a postcolonial megacity which is crucially important to the nation and the Punjab. I argue that Lahore is an unevenly developed, international urban centre, which constantly interpenetrates with and is cross-fertilized by its Punjabi rural hinterland. In illustrating this, I focus on two central loci in the city as depicted in the novels: the red light district (Heera Mandi) and the nearby mosque (Badshahi Masjid). Examining literary representations of the heterogeneous nature of the people who congregate in these two very different areas enables exploration of the metropole/hinterland dynamic in West Punjab. Discussion of the mosque also necessitates discussion of the important and changing role of religion — Islam and, to a lesser extent, Zoroastrianism — in contributing towards post-partition Lahori identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-159
Number of pages19
JournalSouth Asian Diaspora
Issue number2
Early online date6 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2014 Taylor & Francis. This is an author produced version of a paper accepted for publication in South Asian Diaspora. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.


  • Lahore
  • Pakistani Punjab
  • Heera Mandi
  • Mohsin Hamid
  • Bapsi Sidhwa
  • Pakistani literature

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