By Maj (R) Siraj Syed (17 Long Course), USA
Editor’s Note: Maj Siraj Syed is from Artillery/Aviation. He has settled in USA since 1978.
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.
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.
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
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