Meeting with Umer Farooq in Lahore

In Umer’s home having tea

Back from a press check

“The heart is the driver. The eye is the mind. The soul lives in the heart and it’s the driver.” That’s how Umer began our conversation during our second meeting. He came to my hotel to meet for tea. It was over 115 degrees outside but he was calm and collected.

We had met the week before inside the old walled city of Lahore. I was out photographing in the early morning. He walked past me with his three beautiful daughters who were leaving the madrasa, which they attended for religious study before they started their day at a secular school. Our eyes met. He told me his name was Umer, and he invited me into his home for a cup of tea. He owns an offset printing business that prints the Pakistan edition of Newsweek and we soon got to talking about our families, world events and South Asian history. His grandmother was from Amritsar, India less than an hour away. Back when she was growing up, before partition, it was all one country. He has a cousin who is a doctor in New Jersey.

Our meeting at the Avari Hotel 

Ten days later Umer texted me and asked that we meet again. He entered the hotel lobby carrying two large shopping bags. Unbelievable. Why was he doing this? Inside of the bags were two very large silver- inlaid vases and three beautifully carved wooden jewelry boxes for my wife and two daughters. They were carefully gift wrapped but he insisted that I open one for security reasons. I was speechless. As we walked outside of the hotel and said goodbye he told me, “I only want to tell your people the real picture. My cap and beard are a symbol of peace, not fear.”


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