Andrew Buncombe: Colonial relic no place for high jinks

Lahore Notebook: The mighty Zam-Zammah is splattered with pigeon mess and sitting on an unsightly concrete plinth
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The Independent Online

When I first came to Lahore a couple of years ago, in addition to visiting the city's famed Badshahi mosque and the narrow streets of the old city, I made a point of checking out the British-era gun standing near the city's museum.

At the back of my mind, of course, was the idea of replicating the first paragraph of Kipling's famed novel of the sub-continent, 'Kim', and sitting "in defiance of municipal orders" astride the great weapon. I was a bit disappointed to see the mighty Zam-Zammah, the Persian name given to the ordnance, splattered with pigeon mess and sitting on a rather unsightly concrete plinth in the middle of a busy road opposite a college. Taking note of the number of armed policemen on duty in the area, I decided against climbing over the fence and hoisting myself up.

This time, I'm with a local journalist when we drive past the famous bronze weapon, still covered in bird droppings and still similarly fenced off. Without thinking through the consequences, I blurt out to him my student-minded wheeze to climb up on top of the "fire-breathing dragon" and snap a photograph.

My friend hasn't read 'Kim' but, in these anxious times of militant attacks and nervous policemen, he doesn't think it would be a good idea for a foreign journalist to be caught climbing on to an historic treasure, trying to recreate a scene from some racist colonial-era novel. It might be rather hard to explain, he says, with gentle understatement. He does agree, however, that the gun could do with a good clean. Perhaps I should volunteer my services.

When Sikhism flowers

My journey to Lahore takes me through the Wagah border crossing. Because of recent violence, the number of visitors to Pakistan is down. However, today marks the 541st anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, and hundreds of Sikhs from across the world are travelling to Talwandi, the Guru's birthplace near Lahore.

There's also a wonderful scene when copies of the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth, are carried across the border. Old copies are being taken to India while new copies are going to Pakistan. They're carried on pillows and, at the precise moment they cross the border, a handful of petals is thrown over them.

Clinton gets in a jam

Hillary Clinton is in town. Everyone's angry about US policy towards Pakistan. The former First Lady works her charm, but her Secret Service convoy wins over nobody. In addition to fighting off criticisms over the use of CIA drone strikes and such forth, her security detail gets blamed for worsening the city's traffic chaos. She only stays a day.