It stands silently at one corner of the Charing Cross — amongst the most historical areas in the city to date. Silently, it has witnessed the transformation of Pakistan for exactly a century now and it is with this silence that it celebrates a hundred years of its existence — no banners, no fliers or signs of any celebration to mark an occasion so momentous. Yet, the plaque gracing the exterior clearly reads “1914” – the year the building came into being – looking out at all those who spare a glance.
“Architecturally, the building is important to the layout of the Charing Cross,” says I.A. Rehman. “On one side stands the Masonic Lodge and on the other the Shahdin building,” he adds.
The Shahdin Manzil building has stood on the corner of history for a hundred years now. It has witnessed the growth of the Mall Road from a vast open area populated with trees to the variety of buildings now lined on either side. It remembers a time when the Mall was the centre of the city and Shahdin Manzil was an important destination for those belonging to the higher rungs of the British society.
K.K. Aziz, in his book The Coffee House of Lahore: A Memoir (1942-1957), describes the vibrant life that surrounded the building, “In the two hall-size rooms of the Shahdin building was the Lorangs, the finest restaurant in town, patronised by the elite. Near it stood the Stiffles where the guests dined in dinner jackets, danced in the evening and lunched with their friends in as English an ambience as could be conceived.”
“The Stiffles restaurant was amazing,” reminiscences Majid Sheikh, in a 2011 newspaper column. “People used to come in two horses coaches — this is what we have heard.”
Sheikh quotes the menu card of the restaurant as reading “chocolates, sweets, cakes etc., made only from the best British manufacturing materials and unrivalled in the Punjab.
Shahdin Manzil has seen this spectacle change over the century. Not only did it witness the construction of the Assembly hall by the British right across but also the movement and riots that eventually pushed the British out.
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- Mozang, Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
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