Driving on a busy road, hustling with morning traffic, everyone rushing towards a dream defined in some material terms, I heard an old friend from my childhood days, announce the approach of summer. The noise of development has subdued the soft melodious chirp of cuckoos. We, as children, learned that she comes to tell us that summer is here. Once popular architectural design in Lahore’s residential areas Gulberg, Model Town, Samanabad and others comprised spacious houses painted in a typical yellow shade, having a green area with some mango or jamun trees. The popular name ‘city of gardens’ resonated with the culture of the residents as they were generally tree lovers. It provided for the habitat of cuckoo birds who like to nest in tall dense trees. But now, in our frenzy for development where trees are being cut to make way for large bridges, flyovers and trains, Lahore’s cuckoos seem to have lost.At the approach of my first summer at my in-laws’ home, I heard the ‘cuckoo’ sound from the trees in our neighbour’s house and it brought along those typical nostalgic feelings girls have after leaving their parents’ home. I had always been a fan of the cuckoo’s melodious voice. That house belonged to a family who had migrated from UP in Indian sub-continent and had settled in Lahore. Their backyard lawn could be viewed from my window. The graceful lady of the house, who was friends with my mother in law, could be seen in the veranda on her ‘takht posh’ (a traditional piece of furniture, a long bench where ladies would spend most of their leisure time) covered with a frilled sheet and oval pillows known as ‘gau takia’ (round pillow). She would be busy sewing, embroidering, knitting or preparing pickles etc. She would always greet me, the newlywed girl in the neighbourhood, with a welcoming soft smile. One evening she sent me a basket of motia flowers as I had talked of my romance with their fragrance in an earlier conversation. I was overwhelmed. I knew the tradition of sending something to reciprocate a gift but just couldn’t figure out what to send being new to this setup. I wrote a letter of thanks to her in Urdu and placed it in the basket. A few moments later she was there to visit us saying she just couldn’t resist after reading the thanks note for fragrance of love. She represented a culture where words were truly valued. I still remember her account of the tradition of not sending back a gifted food dish empty because the gift ought to be reciprocated. If there was nothing special to be sent, a betel leaf was placed in the dish. It was a gesture implying a prayer that the household of the sender may always remain green with happiness and abundance. That visit and appreciation gave me confidence as a beginner in my practical life. Lahore’s name ‘the city of gardens’ resonated with the culture of the residents as they have always been tree lovers. It provided for the habitat of cuckoo birds who like to nest in tall dense trees. But now, in our frenzy for development where trees are being cut to make way for large bridges, flyovers and trains, Lahore’s cuckoos seem to have flown awayI have retained my love for motia ever since. The flower bangles, gajras are a symbol of romanticism in local culture. They are no match in material terms for the branded gifts a lover can buy for his beloved but for an old school like myself they convey a message of love better than the most expensive of the accessories. I had always seen my mother picking them early in the morning and placing them on our breakfast table. It would be a sad day when motia gajras would become obsolete as a gift of love.Some years later, our neighbour’s head of the family died and per practice the property was to be divided amongst the legal heirs. I could sense the feeling of remorse in lady’s eyes. She had lost her husband and now had to depart from the home she had nurtured with so much of love and traditions. The plants she had given her energy to, her favourite workplace on her takhtposh and the trees where cuckoos nested and chirped. It has been the case with most of those spacious houses in old residential areas of Lahore. They had to give way to the aspirations of a new generation who simply don’t have the time to maintain big houses with spacious lawns, sit on takhtposh in a veranda and listen to the cuckoo. Tranquility is simply not affordable these days. The sweet, soft spoken and highly mannered lady had to leave to some other city with her daughter, her house was sold and the new owner built four modern houses in its place which appeared quite ugly structures, at least to me. The backyard lawn along with the mango trees was eliminated much to my disappointment. Some months later we heard the news of lady’s death. I was aggrieved but I felt it was good for her not to have visited back to see the loss of so much she had nurtured over the years. A big part of her had already died when she had to leave her home. Life must move on, change is a constant. Development has a price to be paid for. The takhtposh of our grandmothers are not a part of our busy lives, most of us don’t sew or knit as our life styles have different requirements and a big variety of everything is available in modern malls. We are in such a hurry in the morning that we just can’t pay attention to cuckoo’s chirping, if we have left them with much of their habitat. At the twilight of a life with many modern luxuries at our disposal and having “achieved” the goal of a modernly constructed comfortable home, somewhere deep down in a corner of our hearts there is a desire to have mornings where we have enough time to notice the motia basket being placed on the breakfast table and feel the cuckoo’s melody. The writer is an assistant professor of Political Science at Kinnaird College. Her email is email@example.comPublished in Daily Times, May 20th 2018.