By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai
Editor’s Note: The writer was born and brought up in Rawalpindi. He studied in Denny’s High School, Mission High School and Gordon College. He now lives in Dubai. He is writing a series of articles about the life in Rawalpindi during 1930s, 40s and 50s.
Continued from Part 9 ………..
Travelling in the Rawalpindi city area was mostly on foot to visit relations, friends and buying from the shops nearby. But for going to the farther areas, the Tongas were used. For Muslim ladies a bed sheet was fixed on the back side of the Tongas as “Pardah” to cover the seating so that they were no more visible to the public while travelling. While going on social visits, from the city area to Saddar and its adjacent areas was quite a big deal. It was so arranged that such place should be reached during mid morning to enable the guests to be there for quite long in the day; and reach back home before dusk in time after being served with lunch and afternoon tea. The Tonga Kootchwan (driver) would charge four annas per trip for such “long journey”.
General public including employees and shopkeepers, etc. used bicycles and sharing tongas to reach offices and shops in far areas. During office opening/closing hours there used to be a sizable rush on the roads. Main employers were COD, MTSD (Mechanical Transport Supply Depot), 501/502 EME Workshops, Controller Military Accounts (Kalkata Dafter), & GHQ (NORTHERN COMMAND), etc which employed hundreds in their staff. A sizable number of employees of these establishments used to come from outside of Pindi area also. They used to come on bicycles covering 10/15 miles distance.
I have seen senior British Military officers going to their offices on bicycles. All the Military Units would have a Cycle Shop along with other services like Tailor Shop, Barber Shop and Laundry Shop, etc. Accordingly the Bicycle sale & service/repair shops were found on very short distances throughout the city and Sadder areas. Very famous brands of bicycles were Phillips, Hercules and Raleigh. Ladies Bicycles were specially designed to facilitate their riding. The horizontal tubular bar was replaced by a bent bar (like “L”) which made it easy for the ladies to ride without raising their leg like men. After the Partition the import of these bicycles was banned to help the production of local bicycles namely Rustam and Sohrab brands manufactured by M/s Beco Ltd run by a retired Naval officer. In spite of the very very poor quality of the local bicycles, the import of bicycles remained banned.
In late 1920s cars started being used by the high gentry. There was a very small number of cars up to 1930s; but during 1940s, the number of cars started increasing. In the meanwhile passenger carrying transport had also come in the market. They were called lorries. In late 1930s a proper passenger inter city service had already started, in addition to railway which was already well established.
The cars used during pre 1930s period were both hard roof tops called “landau” body and others with convertible roofs made with hard canvas; with adjustable windows made with translucent cellulite with “Zeus fasteners” for easy attachment/removal, for protection from rain, etc. Only two brands of automobiles were generally used i.e., Ford and Chevrolet. A small number of Mini Austin (called Baby Austin) were also found on the roads. Initially the automobiles were “Crank” started instead of self start. The owners used to ensure that Crank, toe- chain and the Jack must be available in the cars before journey.
Railway was only comfortable transport service, with 1st Class, 2nd Class, Inter Class and 3rd Class compartments. The common people could not even think of travelling in 1st or 2nd Class compartments. Only the Indian/British Army officers used the 1st class, where as all the other rank British would travel in the 2nd Class. Very few Indian high gentry used 2nd Class compartments. Inter Class compartments were used by the middle high gentry Indians; where as rest of the public used 3rd Class compartments. To travel comfortably in packed compartments people used different tricks. I remember one man placed a placard in his front with bold letters “A PATIENT OF T.B.”. His fellow passengers were so scared that they did not occupy any seat on his berth or in his opposite berth. Some even left the compartment. Thus he enjoyed to occupy the whole berth.
But of course there was no sense of any inferiority complex in the public while travelling in lower class compartments, who would voluntarily buy the tickets as per their social status/entitlement & according to their financial condition. I remember there was no such feeling for any status/class symbol among the general/common public who composed 95 % of the population. To be a respectful person needed a respectable attitude towards others. I knew a number of such respectable citizens who were financially not so well off; but enjoyed a lot of respect from the public due to their maintaining respectable popular public relations.
A majority of the Railway employees was the Anglo Indians, who used to live in the Railway Estate in the Westridge area. All the Field employees used to wear white uniforms with blue black peak caps. Traffic checking was very regular and strict; and the defaulters were handled by the railway police at the spot.
The Omni Bus service was started during early 1940s. M/S Nanda Bus Service, and Pindi Bus Service were allowed to run modern buses in the city on local routes; initially between Saddar and City areas. Later the routes were increased to cover almost all the populated areas with the addition of more buses. Pindi Bus Service was already running between Pindi and Murree Hills along with Murree Hill Transport owned by Raja Ghulam Sarwar and his brother Raja Muhammad Sarwar. They belonged to Ghora Galli near Murree Hills and were political figures also. Later Pindi Murree Trasport Ltd also started bus service to Murree.
One very interesting aspect of all such transport was that no vehicle was allowed strictly any overloading right from bicycles to buses. Only one person was allowed to ride the bicycle, only three passengers were allowed in Tongas. Al the vehicles could not run without warning bells/horns and lights at night. In the beginning the bicycles were fitted with lamps using “carbide” which gave sufficient light while burning in the lamps fitted with reflectors. Later on this type was banned being hazardous to health; and only kerosene oil lamps were allowed. During late 1930s and early 1940s the bicycles were also fitted with magneto/dynamo lamps which used to generate own electricity through friction and gave a strong beam of light. These electric lamps soon became very popular, and everyone started using the same; discarding the old kerosene oil lamps.
Traffic accidents were very rare due to strict and practical vigilance by the Police under British Administration, under their main formula “Crime must follow punishment”; unlike under the present circumstances where only the poor/helpless are booked, while others get Scott free after paying bribes or recommended by the influential persons. TO BE CONTINUED …………
My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 1)
My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 2)
My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 3)
My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 4)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 5)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 6)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 7)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 8)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 9)
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi
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