“A Town Like Pindi”

By Maj Siraj Syed, Retd (17th PMA Long Course), USA

Editor’s Note: Maj Siraj Syed is from Artillery/Aviation. He has settled in USA since 1978. 

Pic of Maj Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed

The other day I was seeing wonderful Photos of Rawalpindi in a website (Native Pakistan). It contained some old nostalgic photos which took me back to the wonderful time which I spent in Rawalpindi in 1960s and 1970s.

Image of Holy Family Hospital, Satellite Town, Rawalpindi

Holy Family Hospital, Rawalpindi.

I was posted as a helicopter pilot at Dhamial Aviation Base, Rawalpindi. It was probably in 1966, when I flew my small two-seater helicopter (OH-13-S) towards Satellite Town. I took along with me Hashmat Ullah Khan Ghori, the official photographer of Dhamial Base. He was a professional photographer and l I liked his photography very much. I flew over Holy Family Hospital and asked Hashmat to take some pictures of the hospital. He took some very nice pictures of the hospital from different angles and directions while the chopper was hovering just 50 feet above the ground level.

Image of Government College for Women, Satellite Town, Rawalpindi

Govt College for Women, Satellite Town, Rawalpindi.

I also flew very low over Government Girls College, Satellite Town and again asked Hashmat to take some pictures of the college. My younger sister was a lecturer in English in that college and I wanted to impress her by flying low over her college. All the students and teachers came out to see the chopper. The members of the faculty knew it that the pilot was the brother of a staff member. They all waved their hands gleefully.

My ancestral house, 771-F Satellite Town, was located close by. It is a huge 13-bedroom house and now my two sisters live there. I was trying to land over the roof top of my house, when the radio in my chopper crackled and Chaklala Air Traffic Control asked me to immediately report back to Dhamial Airfield. I aborted the landing and right away went to Dhamial.

I did get a bit of brushing from my Commanding Officer, Lt Col Babar (Later Maj Gen, Governor of NWFP and Federal Interior Minister). He gave me his piece of mind and said, “Siraj, if you ever do low flying over built up area again, I will throw you out of Aviation”.

Once back at Dhamial Base, Hashmat made a lot of copies of those photos. Later, I gave some photos to Holy Family Hospital through an Army colleague’s wife who was a doctor there. Holy Family Hospital, in those days, was run by a missionary and the administration was very happy to have those aerial photos. They were very grateful for that gesture and thanked me liberally. I am sure some of the photos should still be hanging somewhere at Holy Family Hospital.

Those were the memorable times spent in a wonderful city called ‘Pindi. I live in USA since 1978 but have yet to find “A Town Like Pindi” (Phrase borrowed from the novel, “A Town Like Alice” a love story written by Nevil Shute in 1950 in the backdrop of World War II about a little tranquil town in Australia. The novel was adapted to film in 1956 as A Town Like Alice‘. The film was withdrawn from the 1956 Cannes Film Festival out of fear it would offend the Japanese. In 1981, the novel was adapted into a popular television miniseries also called A Town Like Alice’ ).

More Articles by Maj Siraj:
“The Battle of the Bald” in Super Cafe, Rawalpindi

Related Posts:
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi

Photos of Rawalpindi

Universities in Islamabad/Rawalpindi

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  1. Wow !! Haven’t we all aviators flown low over girls colleges (not necessarily to impress our sisters though!)? My brush with such an incident was over a Girls College in Multan. In the same manner as the author describes, I was hauled up to explain my behavior to my Commanding Officer. I am sure Moaziz Syed will remember this because he was with me in the cockpit.

    • Lt Col (R) Moaziz Syed, Canada says:

      Yes, Siraj Ulmulk is right; better to say that he was with me in the cockpit and dropped a “message” of the kind – to whom it may concern. That chit some how landed on our CO’s table the next day and perhaps both of us ‘marched in’. Our CO was luckily not as strict as Gen Babar and let us go with a grin ” B’aye tum logon ko ishq karna bhi nahien aata?”

      • Siraj Ulmulk, Chitral says:

        Moaziz has got it absolutely right. I was trying to conceal the part he played in this episode. I had just joined the squadron in Multan and he had been assigned the task to “show” me around our flying area. For the pilots the Girls College was one of the most important landmark in this flying area. Yes, on a packet of ‘Three Castle’ cigarettes I dropped down our contact numbers to the girls cheering below. I could not believe my luck when I was confronted with the same ‘Three Castle’ packet by our CO next morning!

  2. Lt Col Masood Alam, Retd (2nd SSC) says:

    Thanks, sir, for making us remember Pindi in such a nice manner. Only a young officer can do such things. Youth can make one do such things that afterwards one can not comprehend as to how it was done. Regards.

  3. Lt Col (R) Zafar Mustafa says:

    One can do such things only in youthful exuberance. Many air accidents took place during low level flying over built-up areas. Some young men don’t bother about consequences of their actions. In intermediate English syllabus we had an essay by William Hazlett titled “OF IMMORTALITY IN YOUTH.” Briefly, it narrates why young people don’t even visualise end of life.

    • Maj Siraj Syed, USA says:

      It is not only the younger lot who do low flying over built up area, some older pilots also do that. Bachelors do it for fun, married people do it for variety.

  4. Brig Khalid Hassan, USA says:

    Email contact of Maj Siraj?

    • Maj (R) Siraj Syed (17 PMA), USA says:

      Dear Brother Brig Khalid Hassan,
      AOA, My email address is: sirajisyed@yahoo.com
      My phone # is: 970-407-9329.
      I live in Colorado. Please email me your phone number, I have Magic Jack phone and I pay $19:95 a year and I can call USA and Canada. Khuda Hafiz.

      • Brig (R) Khalid Hassan, USA (2nd SSC) says:

        Nice reading your comments, sir. Just wanted to say hello.

        I live in Atlanta, GA. I am a bit disabled on the left side due to a stroke that I suffered after my retirement in 2005. My cell phone is 404-343-9612. My son Ali handles my calls and passes on my messages to me. I then respond but since my vocal chords are on the left side are also somewhat affected, I prefer communicating on email.

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