The Lahore that was Strange as it may sound the flat terrain of Lahore is broken at many places by earthen mounds. Some of these are burial mounds with Saints interred in them like the one on Hall Road and the well known resting place of the Hazrat Shah Jamal, others are remains of ancient kilns, while at least three lying in close proximity of each other are said to be old rifle ranges. Four of these mounds are affectionately referred to by Lahoris as paharis or hills. Three are located within the Lawrence Gardens premises, while the fourth can be seen at the southern corner of the Davis Road-Empress Road Intersection opposite the Ambassador Hotel. All were landscaped and planted with flora before Independence, to provide the public with recreational facilities. There are various versions as to the origins of these paharis. The ones in the Lawrence Gardens are said to have been built on the old rifle ranges of the Punjab Volunteers, while another source cites them to be a string of old kilns or aavas. There is no ambiguity however on the one on Davis Road-Empress Road Intersection, which is accepted as the remains of an old potters kiln. The largest of the trio in the Lawrence Gardens lies opposite the Lawrence Hall, the grand structure that once housed the Lahore Gymkhana and is now the Jinnah Public Library. As a young child, this was a fascinating place to explore and one was wont to raise the ire of parents by disappearing amongst its winding pathways and shrubbery. There were secret nooks and corners here, where one was apt to come upon 'love birds immersed in sweet nothings. Lawrence Gardens in those good old days were not infested with ugly restaurants and commercialisation and families out on picnics had to carry their food utensils from the parking area or the tonga stand to the various shaded niches that these paharis offered. Here they could enjoy themselves without any concerns of being harassed by hooligans as is wont to happen these days. The second pahari, which is smaller than its neighbour and lies across the road, had an Open Air Theatre on its summit. In the days of yore, this was the venue where quality plays were staged and where families could spend an evening enjoying clean and classic entertainment. This pahari was flanked on one side by the Gulistan-i-Fatima and on the other by lush green tennis courts of a club. I was shocked to see the state of this once serene place during a recent visit. Pockmarked with food and drink stalls and infested with 'ladies of the night, the place had lost all semblance of what it once was. Yes, the Open Air Theatre was still there, but it now catered for the lewd and cheap tastes of the Pakistani public. The third pahari lies across the tennis courts at the base of the 'theatre mound and along Lawrence Road. This is a smaller affair and even in the period covered by this column appeared rather neglected by the authorities. It was 'refurbished some years ago, but continues to be in a state of dereliction. The fourth mound known as Simla Pahari was perhaps so named by a representative of the Raj in a moment of nostalgia for the cool climes of this well known hill station, which served as the summer capital of British India in the days before Independence. This pahari is puny when compared to the ones in the Lawrence Gardens and does not have the remotest resemblance to its name. It had a small water works that perhaps augmented the water supply of Lahore. And talking of mounds, let me refer to research done by Majid Sheikh, son of the renowned journalist Hamid Sheikh, who speaks of a prehistoric mound in the City of Lahore as the place where Sita found asylum during her second exile and gave birth to a son Lahu. According to legend, this was the origin of the name Lahore. Majid Sheikh even pinpoints the exact spot where this mound was located inside Lahore Fort just next to where the road curls upwards from Haathi Darwaza. I am told that some present day parks with their ugly fittings and senseless flora also boast what can best be described as parodies of these old paharis. It is perhaps so because they have been built by people with no aesthetics or understanding of how to live in harmony with nature. The writer is a freelance columnist.