By Salman Sikandar

Lahore, the city of gates, mosques, food and culture. It has one more important thing that we don’t notice, old trees. On a random Sunday evening, I picked my water bottle and went in search of the old trees in Lahore. I visited the Lahore Zoo, first. You can find some of the oldest trees of the subcontinent there. The first thing I noticed was a trunk of an 11 million years old tree. I wondered how many ages have this tree seen, how many wars, how many rise and downfalls. When I asked a security guard he said that, it's hard to believe that the tree is as old as the plate says.

As I moved to the left side of the zoo I witnessed a huge Bohar tree. This tree is 150 years old. And it feels that you’re standing in front of an old man, an old man who embraced people when they cried, sang love songs for people that are in love and talked to the people who were alone. Still it stands in all its glory. “This tree is famous for granting wishes to lovers, when they want anything they come here to pray underneath this tree,” says 46-year old Rana Aslam who has an ice cream stall near this tree.

As I climbed the stairs I saw a beautiful Kikar tree which was in itself a symbol of time and life as birds were flying all over it like children playing with their parents. One of the oldest trees, is a giant Bohar tree on the left side of the zoo. When I looked at that tree I could see all the ages in the arms of that tree. It stands like an emperor in the middle of Lahore city. This tree is 200 years old and gives a haunting sight.

“People have very little or no interest in trees. They come here to see only animals which is really sad.” Said 67 years old Altaf Hussain who has been selling balloons here for 30 years.  

“I’ve come here to see animals. I didn’t know about old trees in the zoo.” 11 year old Taimoor Sajjad. The general lack of interest in trees saddened me but it was a great evening.

Next evening, I went to Bagh e Jinnah (also called Lawrence Garden). Bagh e Jinnah has three old trees. Most famous is 150 years old date tree. Surprisingly this tree is very different from others as its branches are entangled into each other giving an image of a beautiful cascade or long hair of some princess from fairy tales. “ I’ve been working here from past 45 years that is more than half of my life, but this tree stands here as it was 45 years ago when I was a boy. It has seen my youth and old age. And now my bond with the tree is stronger than it can be with any human being.”

Then there comes the famous “Buddha tree” in the middle of the garden. The tree was planted in 1910. It looks so calm and peaceful and gives an Impression of a “Meditating Buddha”. That is why it is called the Buddha tree. Then comes the tree I liked the most. Beautiful Kikar tree. No one in the park knows its age. If melancholy and fear had a romantic face, this tree would’ve been it. When you stand below it, you always feel like something is watching you but you don’t want to run away rather see what it is, that has been living here for ages. “ Some people say it is the oldest tree in the garden which makes it more than 170 years. This tree is right in the centre of Lahore city. “I've been here for 10 years and nothing haunting has ever happened except for one instance when a huge snake came here.” 36 years old security guard M. Naveed.

As I concluded my visit, I wondered how these trees have always been here but most of us don’t notice their presence at all. We are so busy in our lives that we don’t stop for a moment and look around us to see how incredibly beautiful our world is.

Published in Young Nation Magazine on April 28, 2018