By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai
Editor’s Note: The writer was born and brought up in Rawalpindi. His father was a tribal Pathan and his mother from Delhi. He studied in Denny’s High School; migrated to Mission High School in 1935. Also studied in Gordon College. He worked as a Consultant in Provisioning & Stock Control and Logistics in various Organisations. Finally retired from PIA and now lives in Dubai with his only child who is working in the Emirates Airlines.
He will write a series of articles about the life in Rawalpindi during 1930s, 40s and 50s.
While passing through the 9th decade of my age I have evidently obtained rich experience and possess all types of memories of life; though fading fast but still can be triggered if reminded.
Rawalpindi which is famously known and called only Pindi, was one of the cleanest cantonment boards of the then India. Early before dawn as well as in the evenings the water carriers (Mashkys) and sweepers used to clean (without fail) the drains, streets and roads. The Municipal Fire Brigade’s water trucks used to sprinkle water twice daily on the roads which were mostly dusty especially in the city area. The kerosene lamp posts were fixed at convenient distances everywhere in the streets; which were cleaned and filled with oil in the mornings and lighted in the evenings regularly without fail. Lo and behold these lamp were so luminous and glowing; shedding healthy cool and pleasant light that the things were better seen than with the present electric lights which are adversely effecting the eyesight of the public.
There was very insignificant communal tension between Muslims and Hindu/Sikhs; and the festivals were ordinarily commonly celebrated. The sale of beef of course was not allowed publicly; and which was only available in a general market in Saddar area meant for British residents. Though a few “Jhatka meat shops”(goats/sheep killed instantly with swords by the Sikhs) had started coming up by the Sikh community; but Muslims did not seem to be concerned so much.
License for fire arms were issued to either ex Army officers or to specially recommended citizens. However swords were allowed to be kept without license by the Muslims also during late 1930s. I sill remember a good quality sword was sold at 15-20 rupees in a newly opened shop in Hakim Khaliq’s building just opposite the Jamia Masjid run by Seth Abul Rahim an elite who used to live in Saddar area.
Some schools like Denny’s High School in the Cantt area, Mission High School, Khalsa High School, Islamia High School with scattered branches all over the city area, St. Mary’s High School; and only two colleges Gordon College and D.A.V. College were located in the city area. Headmaster Mr. Nisar of Denny’s High School and Headmaster Mr. Fazal Ilahi of Mission High School were very prominent and considered as high gentry figures. Discipline in the schools was vigorously maintained and on all Mondays we had to show our hands in the “Assembly” for any uncut nails; and were bound to have weekly hair cut (mostly Army cut was preferred). There were no uniforms, but we were bound to wear clean dresses. In case of any breach of discipline we were generally sent back homes as a punishment.
In the beginning there were only two cinemas in the city namely Imperial Cinema and Rose Cinema; and later New Rose Cinema, Luxmi Cinema, Novelty Cinema, Nishat Cinema and Moti Mahal Cinema were constructed in various places in the city area. The Imperial Cinema has since been demolished and replaced by Imperial Market; where all types of electronic goods are sold.
There were two banks namely Sindh Punjab and Habib Bank working in the city; and only one insurance company namely Oriental Insurance Company located in the heart of city was functioning.
Famous doctors were Dr. Ghaseeta Ram with his two sons namely Dr. Dhanraj and Dr Roy, a dental surgeon, also started their practice along with their father after studying from abroad. Their clinic was next to Jamia Masjid. After Partition they left for India; and the building was used by Dr. Minhas who later died and the building was being used by general traders. There was another Sikh Dr. Kartar Singh practicing in the Bohar Bazaar. There was only one Muslim Dr, Mahmood Ali Khan whose practice only flourished after the Partition: otherwise he kept himself busy by playing hockey. His clinic was in the building of one Pleader Raja Abul Rehman on Pull Shah Nazar on the same Jamia Masjid Road and who was only one of a very few Muslim car owners. His car a small baby Austin remained off-road often for repairs.
Another very interesting place on the Jamia Masjid Road was a milk shop owned by Hussainoo doodh-wala. The actual business in his shop started only after late night when people started coming to drink hot sweet milk served in glazed earthen huge cups, and salted or sweet “Lassi with perhas” a very tasty drink made with curd and dehydrated/ caramelized milk (KHOYA). He used to close his shop late at two in the morning. ……….TO BE CONTINUED.
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