16. The Herbalist Shop, Lahore, Pakistan


In a small street in Lahore, I noticed a row of shops each with sacks of various dried flower petals, chips of various woody barks, bottles of coloured spice powders arranged in front of each shop door. I simply had to enter one. A long narrow shop where there were rows upon rows of ‘Victorian’ pharmacy- like cupboards , bottles of various dried herbs, of various spices and two charming   traditional pharmacists.

A constant stream of customers came in, some picked up what they were obviously already familiar with. Others detailed their symptoms at length and very audibly and were advised various preparations.

Some remedies involved fresh herbs that were retrieved from an adjoining kitchen garden. I was fascinated to watch how there were pounded with pestle and mortar, mixed with other preparations from bottles on shelves, packed in little clay containers and dispensed with instructions that involved much nodding and advice for follow-up visits. Every client also got to have a little chat about the ways of life, the local shortage of this and that, or how the family were doing.

I was offered a cup of steaming herb tea. Surprise and genuine concern were expressed about my travelling unaccompanied through all of Pakistan, enquiries made about my family and did I know so-and-so, a nephew in   Manchester.

They patiently explained the contents of the cupboards and bottles, most of which were strange magical roots, barks, leaves, flower petals and ground spices I had never seen or heard of. This was the backbone of traditional healthcare where the pharmacist is trained to act as a diagnostician, prescriber and dispenser, who knows his community, advises on follow –up and still has time to enquire about grandad’s trip to Hajj.

The little shop was filled with an atmosphere of warmth and care suffused with colour and wonderful herbal smells. In my painting I could however only try to capture the colours and the warmth of this little herbalist shop…




Original:  Oil on canvas ;12 x 16″(305 x 410mm); framed

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