Lahore by Metro began as a series of uncharted conversations between fellow passengers. It is a project founded on a curiosity that rapidly grew into a collection of more than a hundred photos and conversations. I moved to Lahore from Basirpur, a small town in Punjab, Pakistan, in 2013 to pursue higher education, and began to take a bus ride to and from college every day. I was awestruck by the most modern transit system of the city. For the first few days, I would sit still and just admire the quality of the service and the fact that the buses were always on time.
Soon, I found myself engaging in conversation with simply anyone seated next to me. The origin of my book lies in the lasting impact their stories carried. The Metro Bus system plays host to a diverse group of people within the city. I always found a congregation of students around certain bus stations, such as the MAO station located beside the MAO college. Similarly, near the Datta Sahib station, I never failed to run into elderly passengers who were devotees on their way to pay their respects at the Sufi shrine of Ali Hujwiri. It was there that I photographed an elderly couple. Every two minutes, the wife would lean over and ask, “Thak ta nai gy ho? Datta sahib any wala hai.” Are you feeling tired? Don’t worry, we are very close to the shrine of Datta sahib.
As the bus drove through the Metro-specific double-carriage route that runs throughout the boroughs of Lahore, I realized that the people around me shared my fascination, the thrill of visiting a big city and the modern transit experience, as many of them were first-time commuters. I was often surprised when I received an honest answer from strangers in response to personal questions. One of my favourite pieces tells the story of a rickshaw driver who fell in love with a Christian woman in his mid-forties. Both had to struggle to make their relationship work and now live the life of their dreams.
These stories might not be worthy of prime time television but they are no less meaningful. They are beautiful reminders that we are all essentially the same, facing similar challenges of life in Pakistan. We can all recognize the struggle of a single mother of four, who fights her way to educating her sons every day by working at one of the stations. This book is dedicated to her and many others like her whose stories are worthy of being shared with the world.
This experience has transformed me into a storyteller. By the end of my four years at university, these daily bus rides took on all the familiarity of a ritual, yet they never grew dull or unexciting. Lahore by Metro is the culmination of all the moments spent waiting on a station platform, listening for the hydraulic hiss of the double doors, wondering who was waiting for me on the other side.