The Ghost at the Mirror Pavilion.

My time in Lahore was drawing to a close and I knew I had to return to the Emperor’s fort just one last time. The Mirror Pavilion a place of serene melancholy, built during the reign of Shah Jahan. The Shah was born in this very fort in 1592, the son of Jahangir. Shah Jahan would later commision the world’s most beautiful building, the Taj Mahal in 1631.

During my life there have been certain places, town squares and buildings that I have been, for some inexplicable reason, drawn to. I would return to these places and stay for many hours in reflection often wondering to myself why it was so hard to leave.

In Milan it was the cloister of Santa Maria della Grazie, in Bucharest the Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral, in Vrindavan a stretch of the Yamuna River near the Laksmirani Kunja temple where I would try to catch the reflection of the moon in it’s waters at night.

In this romantic city of high drama and quiet reflection for me it was the Pavilion of Mirrors within Lahore Fort that would not let me go. There was just something so hauntingly beautiful about this building, it’s silent distress heartbreaking in it’s own way. The sunlight trapped behind black clouds that were crossing the plains of the Punjab would now and again elongate the building’s shadows, shadows that have been confined here for centuries, and the rain, the rain like a million teardrops, the teardrops that must have been shed here throughout the centuries.

Now and again a tourist would pass through or the occasional school group but for the most part I was alone. After much pondering I concluded the people passing through were on tight schedules or just caught up in modern living. They were passing through, making selfies and looking at the pavilion, but actually I feel they never saw it at all, their time too brief to ever having been there in the first place.

I was in Lahore to honour my mother, we had a magical connection to this city, a distant city that we had never visited. The first time I realised that our world was beautiful, that life was beautiful, that my mother was beautiful was trudging through the snow one night as a four year old and her crouching down beside me and pointing telling me to look at the night sky for there was a falling star to behold.

I remember many years later seeing a clip of a man setting fire to newspapers just through sheer willpower, holding his palms above the paper until it ignited. There is so much of the metaphysical realm we do not understand. I feel that mirrors have, at times, the capability to capture energy.

Once while rummaging through an antique shop in Amsterdam I caught sight of my reflection in an old mirror and in angst fled the store for I knew within every part of my being that that mirror had witnessed something so evil, so cruel, that to this day the energy was still caught there.

As the tourists passed through and left again my eyes would wander across the old kangal murals, painted onto it’s walls during another era, it’s gold leaf portraying the magnificence of days gone by, of emperors and kings, of dancing girls and elephants, all those who must have passed through. I had visions of sultry nights of long ago, the palace lit in the moonlight as the string music from sitars drifted through it’s halls, the love stories and betrayals, births and deaths, whole life spans passing infront of the mirrored glass.

There is one room within the pavilion, it is away off to the side, rather forgotten and very dark. In weak light I remember looking into the mirrors within that room, looking at my reflection and trying to look beyond the glass, trying as hard as I could to see into another world but there was nothing there, just my lonely reflection standing in an old palace, just another person with their tragic story, just another future ghost.

Feeling dejected at least I still had the beauty of Lahore and what it had given to my soul, a sense of closure, at peace now with the memory of my mother.

I don’t know why but I took out my phone, the light of the screen capturing my face in the dark room. I noticed the light from the phone screen reflected in the mirrors beside me. Feeling rather silly I switched on the phone’s torch and pointed it to the celing and that’s when I started to cry for infront of me it seemed like a thousand twinkling stars all lit up and as I moved the phone to an angle it made the stars move, as if they were falling, a thousand falling stars in the night sky.

As with the pavilion the murals are in a state of disrepair, here are a few of my favorite one’s I was able to photograph, here are the other ghosts of the Mirror Pavilion:


Shot to death in Lahore.

Men infront of Badshahi

It seems I have crossed a vast ocean, maybe I have crossed time itself. I find myself living in northern Africa now. I, infact, have lived here for years, in a world I no longer recognise, in a world I no longer understand, within a person I almost no longer know.

My memories are like rocks on this ocean, islands, the summits of an endless mountain range that stands submerged somewhere within me. Those memories are the landmarks of my life that I cling to when the currents seem to want to pull me under.

On one of those islands I remember a far off city called Lahore, I remember being four or five years old, the snowy nights. I try to recall my mother’s voice on those nights as she read to me about this exotic city, about a boy called Kim who lived there, the books of Rudyard Kipling.

The Imperial City

It has been many years, decades infact since my mother, in torment, so brutally left this world and my memories of her seem to fade more as the years progress. I have never forgotten those nights though, they are still vivid, how beautiful she had seemed. I have never forgotten about that magical, faraway city called Lahore.

The reactions were always the same when I told people I was travelling to Pakistan. Worry, suspicion, drama. I would often hear “…..but no one goes to Pakistan”. I could only reply “for the mountains!” and that seemed to quieten them. Yes, it is true, it was for the mountains indeed but not the Himalaya, it was for other peaks far greater than them.

Inside Badshahi Mosque at night.

“Towards the Land of the Giants” I thought as I swept in from the Gulf of Oman, the mountains of Beluchistan like huge steps, climbing upwards across distressed patchworks of yellow and gold.

I remember when I arrived in Delhi in 2009 the utter shock I felt being out of my comfort zone. My life before that had been a series of beautiful hotels, restaurants and museums in what was supposed to be the greatest cities of the world. To see dead animals – and even a dead man – lying on the street had for me been highly upsetting. I think living in Africa now has changed me in alot of ways. Driving into Lahore late afternoon, the vibrant, noisy streets and life, the chaos and endless car horns framed in a gentle fading sun, felt no different from my daily African life and I guess you could say I was in my element.

The shadows in Shalimar

They say that Lahore is the most polluted city on Earth but to me it was, to put it simply, beautiful. Walking through the old gardens of the Mughal emperors early in the morning was very moving. To experience shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), to smell the flowers and soil and hear nature was unbelievably soothing.

Shalimar early morning

I found myself alone in what seemed like a flooded section of the gardens, dense with trees and quite dark where birds were swooping down from the branches, their reflections in the water. It was rather sensational and dramatic, a precious gift from the natural world. If I had to make an ukiyo-e print of an experience in my life it could be that very moment.

Zamzammah – Kim’s cannon from Rudyard Kipling’s book “Kim”

Rudyard Kipling called Lahore “The City of Dreadful Night” having spent his days along it’s dark alleyways, brothels and opium dens but to me the city was majestic, far more than Delhi or Isfahan. I feel that Lahore had been a city that reached it’s zenith away back in time.

Inside the Lahore Museum where Kipling’s father was curator, the locals call it “Ajaib-Gher” The Wonder House

I have many moments in Lahore that I will never forget, some good and some bad. Walking through the gardens of Jahangir’s mausoleum and admiring it’s impressive architecture a police constable insisted he walk with me “for my own safety” and even though a few times I told him i’m perfectly safe by myself he would not leave me alone often asking if he could come to my hotel. It became so unbearable I had to leave the mausoleum just to get away from him.

Jahangir’s Mausoleum

I was in a deeply reflective state while I was in Lahore and to be honest I didn’t want to talk to anyone at all. I wanted to enjoy the memories of my mother, it was because of her that I was in Lahore in the first place.

One day I wanted to observe the light and shadows across Badshahi Mosque as the hours progressed, instead I was harrassed hundreds of times for selfies. sometimes by large groups. I would gladly make photos but after hours of this it became unbearable, some people were so disrespectful or would just make them anyway. After a while their camera’s seemed like weapons, shot to death by camera lens indeed. If you ever see someone famous please just let them be.

I could not refect as deep as I wanted that day because of those interruptions but I do vaguely remember the great mosque in changing light until after nightfall when it’s domes seemed suspended, I felt they were like moons and I almost could touch them.

Badshahi in fading light
Almost Night

Walking under Delhi gate and along crowded lanes, through elaborately painted hammams and past exotic spices, colorful mosques like jewellery boxes, laughing children and the curious elderly where every man would stare, the scruffy street dog staring at the butcher shop and me going in and buying it breakfast, smiling boys driving my rickshaws and taxi’s, strange delicious sugary sweets and burning hot parantha, puppet shows, milky tea – actually the best tea in the world , the skylines of emperors and kings and through it all memories of my beloved mother whom I felt in some way was with me spiritually.

Inside Wazir Khan

Lahore, millions of people have passed through your streets across hundreds of years and i’am just another one of them with just another story, but like you, I also have a history that is bittersweet and just like you, I continue to survive through it all.