It doesn’t need repeating, but I will say it anyway — Lahoris love Lahore. My love for Lahore grows the longer I am away, so you can imagine how I feel about my city after 20 years spent mostly abroad. My desire to experience this city is like an itch that I can only scratch once a year.My mission for this visit to Lahore was to scratch this itch like a tourist in my own city. Of course I have visited Badshahi Masjid, the ShahiQila, and AndroonShehr, so I wanted to try something new. I wanted to see a sunrise over Lahore, preferably from higher up than the rooftop of my parents’ home. It would be an excellent way to take advantage of my jetlag! I got right down to it and did some research. My research told me that the highest easily accessible point to see a sunrise over AndroonShehr would be at Wazir Khan Masjid. I shared my early-morning planning with my parents who, being the adventurous people they are, were excited to come along. I woke them at 4:30 am the next day — Lahore was dark, quiet, empty. You could smell the moisture and dust in the air.I made some chai as my parents prepared to leave, filled a bottle with water, and we sipped from our travel mugs as we made our way through a sleeping Lahore. We passed the cleaning machines that make Lahori streets sparkle like the streets in American cities wish they could. I was struck once again by the inherent beauty of the tree-canopied roads of Lahore as we rushed, unencumbered by traffic, toward the old part of the city. Lahore is so very lovely. We drove through Delhi Gate and parked right next to Wazir Khan Masjid. A drive that would usually take an hour had taken less than half that time! We marveled at how well the outer walls of the masjid has been restored, at the carvings on the wooden shutters facing the street, and removed our shoes to enter the masjid. Now, we just had to find a way into a minar. There are four of them — we explored the base of each one, but only found locked doors, beautiful tiles and paintings, and sleeping men.Finally, we asked a namazi if there was a way up. He told us, between some gilay and shiqway, that we would need to contact a man using a phone number posted in the masjid. As the sun’s rays began seeping into the clear sky above the horizon, we punched the thekedar’s number into our phones. The sunrise looked beautiful from the ground, and we decided we would set up a visit to the top of Wazir Khan Masjid for the next day. The next morning we rose early again, this time with my sister in tow, and made our way to Androon Shehr and Wazir Khan Masjid. The city was still beautiful, but there was a heavy mist in the air. I could smell the smog.This time we prayed and then met with the thekedar, who locked us into the minar after he let us in. We climbed the high, closed stairs with our phones illuminating the path as we ascended the minar. It was beginning to be light out and I looked forward to seeing Lahore and the sky stretch out before me. But as I exited the stairs and climbed onto the balcony of the minar, I saw one of the most disappointing sights I have ever seen. Lahore was completely shrouded in smoke. I could barely make out the tops of low buildings in the distance. Half the sky was covered in a dense grey haze. I realized then that we would not see the sun rise. I do not exaggerate when I say that this was a sight that broke my heart.I am not naïve. I know about Lahore’s pollution problem. I think about it whenever I think about my parents going for a jog in Model Town Park, or when I think about raising a family in Lahore, or when I think about the future of public health in this city. But this sight — of a beautiful city laid out before me, the evidence of millions of lives lived right in front of me, all under a haze of poisonous smoke — was too much. You can smell, see, and feel the lung disease, the greenhouse gas effects, and the plethora of other human impacts. We are hurting ourselves and our ancient city. As I descended the stairs from the minar and made my way back to the car, I could not shake this feeling of dread. I thought about the cars, the industrial pollution, the trash burning, the crop burning, that all harm us and our city. As I sat down for nashta, I thought about my parents’ long-term health. Would they get lung cancer from the smoke in the air? What about your parents? What about the parents of the people who have the power to regulate industrial pollution, fine trash burners, and stop crop burning? Why haven’t they done something? Why haven’t we insisted that they do something?I don’t have the answer to any of these questions. I only know one thing: something needs to change. What are you going to do to inspire that change?Faryal MirMichigan, USAPublished in Daily Times, October 12th 2018.