The Coffee House of Lahore: A Memoir 1942-1957

Osama Siddiqui

If I am asked to recommend few books that are historically rich about the leftists of Pakistan in her early times, ‘The Coffee House of Lahore: A Memoir 1942-1957’ would be one of them.

About the background of the name of this book, it is to be noted that the Britishers were tea drinkers and the Chinese and Russians as well, however, the leftists of Pakistan preferred coffee (mostly) over tea and made it a culture and that’s why especially in Lahore, the leftist and progressive people used to come to Coffee House and discuss different topics while taking coffee or tea etc.

Well, the book is very special, because, it portrays the people who belonged to the fields of writing, poetry, arts, painting, politics and civil service. It covers all the famous and the non-famous people who were the members of the Coffee House. It throws light on the fact that all of them were educated and strongly opinionated. K.K. Aziz, the author, while commenting in this regard has said that there (at Coffee House) he had learnt the art of debating without raising voice and sharpening the arguments.

In the book, 206 personalities have been mentioned and of course it’s a very great and comprehensive work by K.K. Aziz to bring to light all those who have much or less impact on him as well as on the culture of Coffee House during those 15 years when he was a regular visitor of it and if we say that this publication is about the long lost glory of the city of Lahore, it would not be wrong.

Here, I would mention some people from the book who have played a vital role in Pakistani politics; culture and literature and Habib Jalib, Altaf Gauhar, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Saadat Hasan Manto, Bari Alig, Dr Abdus Salam, Yusaf Zafar and Nasir Kazmi are included in this list. The author has also talked about the people who were not very popular but helped him in some way and Jameeluddin Hassan was one of them who asked him to shorten his name from Khursheed Kamal Aziz to K.K. Aziz.

The end of the publication is the most beautiful part where K.K. Aziz recalls those 15 years telling how special those were being there in the Coffee House. He regretted how the culture was almost over. He wrote how the Coffee House was a magnet for intellectuals of those days. He seemed to be depressed while saying how people these days have little or no manners while sitting in an expensive restaurant or cafe. He reminded how elegantly people used to dress up in the Coffee House and how mannered they were. Most of them belonged to the colleges in Lahore and Lahore was known for producing boys of good taste and refined sense of dressing as well.

The language used in ‘The Coffee House of Lahore: A Memoir 1942-1957’ is Punglish which is a mixture of Punjabi and English. Thus, it can be concluded that if anyone wants to know about the culture of Lahore during and after the partition among the students as well as artistic, literary and progressive people, the book is a must-read for him/her.

The writer is a graduate of the Institute of Management Sciences (IMSciences), Peshawar in business administration and has keen interest in modern South Asian history, cricket, films and history of the Subcontinent. He can be contacted at:

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