By Mehmud Ahmed (Canada)
Editor’s Note: Mr. Mehmud Ahmed is 81 years old former journalist who has settled in Canada since five years.
I lived in Lahore only for two years and that too at a time when Tongas were being eased out and cabs were being inducted and that is 1959-60. Still on a few occasions I had to use the Tonga and benefit from the Tonga walas command of the walled-city inflection. The literature that I came across during those rides is, though innovative and hilarious but mostly unprintable. Some of it because being too explicit, other because of my inability to spell and write words according to their phonetic value.
In those days I worked as Secretary to the President of the Pakistan Muslim League (late Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar). In the free times we used to talk about the events and leaders gone by. One day I asked him about the late Abdur Rahman Siddiqui, an Urdu speaking journalist from Calcutta. He was the editor of the Morning News, Calcutta and later Dhakka and also an important activist of the All India Muslim League. But he was more known for his proverbial “foul” vocabulary that he used with liberty as a second language. Quaid-e-Azam did not have that command on the street-lingo and hence did not care while the other Muslim Leaguers accepted it in the stride.
Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar’s description of the man made me more curious and when I wondered about the “velocity, richness and command” of Siddiqui Sahib over his “language”, Sardar Sahib smiled and said, “You should not expect me to repeat what he used to say but I will tell you a story from which you can draw your own conclusions”.
According to Sardar Nishtar Sahib, Siddiqui Sahib attended the Lahore session of the Muslim League where the Pakistan Resolution was adopted. On the first day he came out of his hotel to go to the Minto Park (as it was known then) and asked a tonga wala if he would take him and two other companions of his to the Muslim League meeting and for how much. Because of the firing on the Khaksars a day or two earlier and also the rush for the Muslim League session, the Tonga wala quoted a sum that Siddiqui Sahib thought was very high and he started haggling. When the Tonga wala did not budge, Siddiqui Sahib and his companions accepted the demand and were on their way to the Jalsa. Due to the crowds the progress of their journey was slow and often the Tonga wala used his whip and also what Sardar Sahib said ‘lachhay-daar’ tongue to lash the horse. On reaching the Park, Mr. Abdur Rahman Siddiqui gave him Rs.1.50 and also rewarded him with Rs.2.00 at which the Tonga wala said:
Hearing this Siddiqui Sahib said:
On a couple of occasions I also heard the ‘lachhay-daar zaban’ of Lahori Tonga walas but those as I have said earlier are mostly un-printable. Some cannot be composed because of the deficiency of the script. I am not sure of the Gurumukhi alphabets as I am ignorant about it but I think some tongue-twisters will be difficult to render even in that script.
Many of Tonga walas in the process of modernization of public transport in Lahore have taken to Rickshaws, their language too has lost its classic finesse that was the hallmark of that tribe.
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