By Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (R), 2nd SSC
Editor’s Note: The comments of Pindiites at the end of this article contain many interesting information and facts about Mukhtar Sahib and Super’s, which were missed by the author. Please do read these comments.
The famous Super’s Restaurant, located on Bank Road, Rawalpindi, had closed its business since long and its ‘legendary’ bald owner Mukhtar Sahib had shifted elsewhere. Many friends wanted to know about the whereabouts of Mr. Muhktar. They were also interested in the history of Super’s and the story of Mr. Mukhtar.
Through the courtesy of Lt Gen (R) Kamal Akbar (a famous Eye Specialist) I came to know that Mukhtar Sahib has opened a new restaurant. If you go from the old location of Super’s towards the direction of Murree Road, you will find this small restaurant on the left side on the Bank Road just short of Malik Fabrics about 100-150 metres away from Super’s.
I decided to meet him and visited him in his restaurant on a bright Sunday on 10 November 2013. Ch. Mukhtar Ahmad Awan was sitting behind the counter of Shalimar Restaurant. He was wearing a cap and looked quite younger, though he is 75 years old now. He greeted me with a smile and was visibly pleased to meet me. He told me that Gen Kamal Akbar has recently given him a photocopy of an article “The Battle of the Bald” in Super Cafe, Rawalpindi” written about him and Super’s by an old Aviator Maj Siraj Syed.
I requested Mukhtar to briefly narrate the history of Super’s. Here are the details from the horse’s mouth:-
“My father, Ch. Ali Ahmad, belonged to Hoshiarpur (Now in Indian Punjab). He was from a very humble background. He shifted to Delhi in 1932 and started selling bakery items, which he carried in a big tin box, right at the bungalows of Gora Sahibs on his bicycle. In 1934, he opened Hasting Bakery & Dairy at Connaught Place, Delhi. Later its branch was opened at Shimla, the famous hill station.
Super’s was opened at Bank Road Rawalpindi in 1934-35 by Peshori Ram Lamba, a resident of Jhelum. He also owned a restaurant by the name of Quality Ice Cream in Delhi. He was a friend of my father. On 18 August 1947, Peshori Ram exchanged Super’s with my father’s Hasting Bakery & Dairy and signed a Judicial Stamp Paper of that deal in Delhi. He handed over the papers to my father and boarded him on a small Cessna plane which landed at Chaklala airport. The very next day my father met the British lady who was the manager of Super’s. On seeing the sale deed, she handed over the restaurant to him.
After passing Matriculation exam in 1956, I also joined my father at Super’s . I continued my studies too and passed FA from Gordon College. I am a proud Gordonian. Super’s used to serve the best hand-made quality ice cream in town. The recipe was a closely guarded secret with the family members. We had hired a godown in Sheikh Atta Ullah’s Ahaata (Compound) which was opposite Super’s. One can still see that Ahaata behind Softo Ice Cream Shop on Bank Road. We prepared ice cream in that godown during night. We had a lot of variety in ice cream (to name a few; Tutti Frutti, Pista, Mango, Pineapple, Vanilla, Strawberry, Kaiser Pista, Peach Melba, etc). In addition to ice cream, we also served delicious Pakistani food and tea/coffee with cake, pastries, cream rolls, samosa, shami kabas and patties.
Gentry of Pindi used to visit Super’s and enjoy the ice cream, Pakistani cuisine, tea, snacks, etc. From an old photo showing the inside view of Super’s, you may judge yourself about the type of people who visited our restaurant.
My father had three wives and had many children. In 1976, he asked me to open my independent business elsewhere. He didn’t give me a penny. I tried my luck in some contracts of supply of electric conduit pipes in Islamabad and finally in 1978 opened Shalimar Restaurant at the old site of Mall Plaza where money changers are located now. My restaurant was on the Kashmir Road side, opposite Habib Bank which is still located in a building portion of W. Wilson Chemists. Only Pakistani food was served in my new restaurant. After a few years, the Cantonment Board decided to build Mall Plaza and
gave me a place on rent on Haider Road in a corner opposite the famous Drug Store. I spent 3 to 4 lacs rupees and decorated the new venue of Shalimar Restaurant. In late 1981, Cantt Board demolished the restaurant at night declaring it an encroachment. I wasn’t given any compensation. In 1982, I bought the present site of Shalimar Restaurant on Bank Road near Malik Fabrics and running it successfully since the last 31 years.”
After patiently listening to this long story I asked Mukhtar Sahib, “Which famous personalities had visited Super’s?”
He proudly replied, “Super’s was equally popular among politicians and Army officers. A few names are; Afzal Jatoi, MNA (Father of Care Taker Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi), Hakim Ali Zardari (Father of ex President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari), Mustafa Khar, Justice Maulvi Mushtaq (Bhutto Case fame), Wali Khan, Miangul Aurangzeb (Wali-e-Swat and son-in law of Ayub Khan) and Gohar Ayub (son of Ayub Khan).
The Army Chiefs who visited Super’s are Gen Yahya, Gen Tikka Khan, Gen Zia-ul-Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Satish K Lamba, a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, was a relative of Super’s original owner (Peshori Ram Lamba) and he also visited Super’s during his stint in Islamabad.”
“Did Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto ever visit Super’s?” I asked.
“No, as per my memory they didn’t visit Super’s. President Ayub Khan once came to Imperial Hair Dresser, located a few shops away from Super’s. It is still there. Bhutto was a frequent visitor to London Book Company also located a few shops away from us. Now Unique Bakers is located there.”
My next and pretty obvious question was, “What happened to the Super’s?”
He was silent for a moment, the pain and sadness was evident from his face, he took a deep breath and said,” My father died in 1979 and then it was run by my step-brother Gulzar Awan.” I told him that Gulzar Awan was my Course mate in PMA back in 1971-72 but unfortunately was withdrawn.
Mukhtar further told, “Gulzar ran Super’s successfully for many years and it was finally closed about ten years back. Then Gulzar opened Multi Choice Shoes in that building. Gulzar died in 2010 and the shoe shop is now being run by his sons.”
I asked him, “Do you remember the exact year the Super’s was closed?”
He said, “No, I don’t know the exact year. I think it closed 10 years back.” Then he asked an old waiter, who had also served in Super’s, “Aziz, do you remember?”
Aziz replied, “Sir Jee, Super’s was closed in 2000 or 2001.”
I was so sad to hear the story about the ‘demise’ of Super’s which was opened by Peshori Ram Lamba in 1935 and was finally closed after 66/67 years. It was the most famous restaurant in Saddar and three generations of Pindiites had enjoyed its delicacies. People belonging to Rawalpindi and now living abroad still cherish the old memories of Super’s. They still remember the glory of Super’s of the bygone years and become pretty nostalgic.
To change the gloomy atmosphere, I jokingly asked Mukhtar, “Do youngsters still tease you due to your baldness? They used to tease you on telephone and you abused them profusely in Punjabi while ducking down under the counter in order to avoid the inconvenience to your customers.”
Mukhtar gave a big laugh and removed his cap and showed me his shiny bald head and said, “That was old-time. The atmosphere was quite different. That teasing was in Super’s which was a favourite hangout for the youngsters. With my departure from Super’s the teasing business also stopped. Now I also wear a cap and my customers hardly know about my baldness.”
Taking a bit liberty, I asked, “Mukhtar Sahib, why did you hurl abuses in Punjabi to the obnoxious callers?”
He kept his cool and replied, “What else can you expect from a person hailing from Hoshiarpur? Punjabi is my ‘Maadri zabaan’ and all over the world people use only their mother tongue when they are angry. Do you agree?”
I had to agree fearing he may transform into his old ‘Hoshiarpuri’ self of Super’s days if I didn’t agree.
It will not be out of context to quote from a Facebook post of my younger brother, Zahid Zia Cheema, a CSS officer, about ‘swearing in Punjabi':-
“Panacea for extreme anger is to swear in Punjabi, extremely angrily. You will not only derive optimum satisfaction, your creativity would be a revelation and your innovation?- lips homage to the Punjabi swear book and of course, you will deliberately find excuses to get angry on regular basis!!!”
I ventured more and asked Mukhtar, “People say that you never repeated the same abuse during the entire episode in any telephonic ‘battle’. They were really impressed by your ‘vocabulary’. How did you invent so many ‘terminologies’?”
He gave a smile and said in Punjabi, “Aye apnay apnay zehn di gull aye!! Her ikk da apna apna zehni tawaazan hounda aye!!”
I gave an approving nod to his ‘original’ idea of the term ‘zehni tawaazan’ . By the way, I had no other choice but to agree.
I categorically asked him, ” Mukhtar Sahib, have you forgiven your ‘culprits’ who teased you?”
He grinned and retorted back,”Hadn’t I repaid by abusing them in Punjabi right then? I have no personal grudge and have forgiven all of them and hope that they would also forgive me for the abuses.”
Mukhtar’s son, who has recently retired as a Lt Col, also joined us. I asked him, “You are looking for a job, why don’t you start the ice cream business in Shalimar Restaurant and reintroduce the delicious variety of hand-made ice cream? You have already got the secret recipe in the family.”
He said, “I would give it a thought.”
Then I thanked Mukhtar and we had a photo session outside his restaurant. On my request he posed for a photo with his cap removed exposing his bald head which was a fun for the youngsters of the yesteryear who used to roam around in Saddar and enjoyed hell of a time. Now the new generation is glued to TVs, laptops and iPads and hardly have any time for the outdoor activities and pranks.
The main purpose of writing this lengthy article is that many of my friends who are now grandfathers (some seniors are also great grandfathers) repent that why did they tease Mukhtar a lot and made his life miserable. Now as responsible senior citizens they want to apologize to him and most of them even have the moral courage to do so by writing a comment to this effect at the end of this article.
Go ahead, my friends!! Do write your brief apology at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”. A photocopy of this article will InshaAllah be given to Mukhtar.
Mukhtar’s son, Lt Col Rafiq Mukhtar, later sent me two old photos; one showing the outside view of Super’s and the other showing the inside view of the restaurant. He also sent a scanned copy of an advertisement of Super’s which was published in 1962. In those days the Bank Road was known by its original name, Edwards Road. These photos and the ad have now been included in this article. Thank you, Col Rafiq Mukhtar.
That Sunday night, I was restless and couldn’t sleep properly. I was really sad on the closure of Super’s and more over in my dream I roamed around in Hoshiarpur and saw many Hoshiarpuri evil spirits and ghosts.
There is a good news for my friends living in Toronto, Canada that Mukhtar’s nephew Khawar Hussain, who is also his son-in-law, has opened Shalimar Restaurant in Mississauga 6 years back. Old Pindiites living in Toronto/Mississauga can coordinate and arrange a Reunion at this restaurant. This will rekindle the spirit of Super’s in the far land.
Post Script: Ch. Mukhtar sold his Shalimar Restaurant (Bank Road) in Dec 2013, soon after he was interviewed by the author for this article. Now Mukhtar’s name and Super’s memories will remain in the hearts of his fans.
Those who want to meet Mukhtar Sahib can find his contact number in the Comment written by his son Tahir Mukhtar on 16 January 2014.
Readers are requested to see the comments of Pindiites at the end of this article. Many interesting information and facts about Mukhtar Sahib, which were missed by the writer, have been amply covered by them.
Editor’s Note: If you have liked this page, then please share it on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media.
If it is not inconvenient, please do write a brief comment at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”.
Visitors of this website are welcome to contribute their nostalgic articles about Rawalpindi by sending to: rashid.cheema11