CHAUBURJI There are two illustrious names from the British colonial era that no student of history is apt to overlook with reference to Punjab and specifically Lahore. These two great men were the Lawrence Brothers - Henry and John. In 1862, a top expert from Kew Gardens in London was brought to Lahore for laying out a vast park spread over 112 acres. The park was named after John Lawrence and came to be known as the Lawrence Gardens. Although this name was changed to Bagh-e-Jinnah after independence, the old name continues to be used by Lahoris at large. There was a time when the lush green environs of these gardens were the pride of Lahore. Families could stroll on roads overhung with trees; climb the two hills or picnic on the beautifully maintained turf, without fear of being harassed by hooligans. Theatre lovers could enjoy a wide repertoire of plays in the hilltop Open Air Theatre, secure in the knowledge that what they were watching would be descent entertainment and not the obscene trash being doled out today. The profusion of trees and shrubs and the habitat they provided presented ample opportunities for nature lovers and bird watchers. There was the kathal or 'Jack Fruit tree near the entrance to the plant nursery, with large spiny fruit sticking out from its trunk. A little further down the road towards Lawrence Hall stood the gnarled old 'Camphor tree with flying foxes festooned in its upper branches. Its leaves gave out a strong but pleasant camphor odour when crushed. The 'Buddha tree was another oddity with large thorns protruding from its trunk and branches. The entire 112 acres covered by these gardens was maintained by an efficient army of malis, who drew their inspiration from a gentleman called Ghulam Nabi. Mr Nabi was the garden supervisor and ruled the roost from the vast plant nursery situated on the road that led to the zoo. With drooping 'Fu Manchu type moustaches, the 'pugareed figure of this individual could be spotted, puffing on his king sized hookah, under the canopy of the trees lining the mini canal that ran through the nursery. This mini canal was part of the ingenious irrigation system devised by the creator of Lawrence Gardens and brought water from the Upper Bari Doab Canal also known as the Lahore Canal. This water channel was a fascinating place as it was overshadowed by a dense canopy of trees giving the area a 'Green Mansions type aura. It also held another big attraction for children as it teemed with tiny fish that could be netted and put in an aquarium. Another unforgettable character from amongst the gardeners was Muhammad Ali, the 'Head Mali. This individual had developed an unflinching bond with our family and regularly visited the house to issue advice on how to run our domestic garden. Walking up our drive dressed in a white kameez and dhoti topped with a pagree, he would invariably be carrying a black umbrella tucked under one arm and a big load of cut flowers under the other. He never asked for money or any other favour and he was always treated with respect by every member of our family. The Lawrence Gardens were also home to three clubs. The Lahore Gymkhana was housed in the Lawrence and Montgomery Halls, while the Cosmopolitan Club was located near the Lawrence Road entrance to the park. The third club was the Ladies Club also known as the 'Purdah Club. Surrounded by a high hedge, it was a popular meeting place for the female elite of Lahore. Regretfully, the Bagh-e-Jinnah of today is a far cry from the Lawrence Gardens of yore. There pervades a general atmosphere of neglect; the shaded nooks are now home to addicts and characters in the flesh trade and hooligans have polluted the once quiet serenity of the roads. Perhaps what is needed is a movement to restore Lahores well known landmark to its former beauty. The writer is a freelance columnist.