Club addiction has carried on in the post-1947 elites and modern gymkhanas in Pakistan and India are still gateways to a prestige network. Small wonder, then, that when the 1965 war sparked off, the Indian commander-in-chief announced that he would enjoy his evening bara peg at the Lahore Gymkhana!
But I digress; Lawrence Gardens’ Hall, built around 1862, was expanded to house two buildings – the Lawrence Hall and the Montgomery Hall – named after the two governors of the Punjab, Sir John Lawrence and Sir Robert Montgomery. At a later point in time, the two structures were integrated into one. Later, Lawrence’s name was attached to the Gardens and Montgomery’s to the Hall. Another Governor, General Jillani, had a sense of history and was keen to dilute the elitism inherent to his tribe; in 1984, he converted the Hall into a magnificent library dedicated to the Quaid-e-Azam. It is ironic that ordinary mortals still find it difficult to obtain membership at the library, and the highest percentage of users are aspirants towards the civil services! Some sociologists would remark that this is continuity of another kind. . .
The three main gates were originally called the Victoria Gate (on the Mall), the Rivaz Gate (on Lawrence Road) and the Montgomery Gate (on Racecourse Road). Time has erased these names and we will have to wait for a culturally correct administrator to revive these names – after all, losing history means losing a part of our collective selves.
It is in the gymkhana tradition that the cricket ground was built in the Gardens. The cricket ground has remained the hallmark of the Lawrence Gardens and the well-designed pavilion made from British oak-wood is a heritage site. Of course, true to our contemporary aesthetic – or lack of it – another concrete replica was added some years ago. One of our former prime ministers frequently played cricket at the Baagh-e-Jinnah and every Sunday, modern day sahibs would play with him.