By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai
Editor’s Note: The writer was born in Rawalpindi in 1925. 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 10……
Before 1940s Rawalpindi was very peaceful and calm city; no hustle bustle and heavy traffic or noisy environments. Only two sounds were familiar; one the hourly strikes by the big clock (called GHARHYAL) in Bagh Sardaran which was very loud and melodious during dark hours. It was very strange that sound of the huge clock bell was less audible for the people standing just beneath the clock; but it became louder at the far away distance. It was just like the famous Big Ben of London, upon which the citizens of Pindi depended for correct time keeping. Secondly the sound of the regular siren of the Rawalpindi Electric Power Company (REPCO) which used to be listened exactly at nine at night, accompanied by an interruption in the electric supply for just a fraction of time. It was due to shifting the supply from one generator to the other one. The sound of this siren was very loud and harsh, which was heard from miles away. I still remember news that one woman aborted to listen the loud sound of this siren in the adjacent village of Marrir Hassan.
Both the sounds have now become silent and seem to have become the history of the past. REPCO has stopped its local power generation after being connected to the national grid of Tarbela Power Project. The melodious sound of the popular “GHARHYAL” has also vanished along with the beautiful structure upon which that light green French made huge and majestic clock stood facing all the four sides. The body of this clock was fixed on huge four metallic concave legs; and placed on a 100 feet tall tower. The figures were painted in Roman in black; with black pointed hour/minute hands on the big white dials facing all the four corners. This beautiful piece of time giving costly machine created with such an excellent craftsmanship which served the public punctually without any interruption for decades became the victim of the merciless, ignorant and corrupt administration, which dismantled it and sold it as scrap. The old spare parts dealers (Kabarees) were seen transporting the metal scrap (the pieces of the dead body of a French Belle) on the bullock carts to their shops for recycling or whatsoever other tragic disposal.
This beautiful high-rise structure was located in a very graceful surroundings like the well planned Sardar’s Garden (Bagh Sarddaran), and the palace of Sardar Sujan Singh a well-known dignitary of his time. High rise pine trees, fruit trees and flower plants of various varieties were abundantly planted in the garden making it a beautiful resort. Flowers of many varieties from the world added to the majesty of the garden. It was open to the public from dawn to dusk. People used to start coming from morning to enjoy the picnic and other joyful activities like running brisk walking and general exercises.The garden was turned into a housing colony with such acute congestion and ugly planning that it now exists as the ugliest spot in the city, speaking adversely on the social, and cultural aspects of the existing generation.
The above Sikh family had vast property and had also constructed famous buildings in the city and Sadder areas, which are being occupied by the government for use by their various departments. The other recreation spots were Company Bagh (Now Liaquat Bagh) and Topi Rakh (Now Ayub Park). The Topi Rakh was a vast area of 2 to 3 thousand acres of land covered with wild bushes and trees. It had a big water pond with a variety of fish. It was not visited as a resort because it was not developed properly; and there were no lights. It was just like a small “Jungal” (Jungle).
Adjacent to the park there was an old Golf Course used by the Army Officers and high Civil Service Officers.
Opposite the Park there was the famous British Attock Oil Company functioning with their British styled buildings; and the small colony for their workers. A big number of trucks used to gather in line on the approach Road to load the Company’s products for onward disposal of the same to various consumers.
The Company Bagh was properly designed for the purpose of recreation for the visiting public. The Company Bagh was situated opposite the Gordon College and looked quite spacious with only one road winding throughout the park. It was also planted with pine trees and various varieties of flowers. It had one Tennis Court also for the members of the Tennis Club. After the Partition this nice recreation spot also met with the same disastrous fate and now it is used for political gatherings. Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister, was assassinated at the same spot. Incidentally I am eye-witness to the tragedy, when I happened to be present at the spot. I saw him falling after being shot. Some government offices have also been constructed at this site. Eventually the site has lost its recreational attraction.
Unfortunately there was no other than above proper recreational spots for the public to enjoy and refresh. Generally the common public was also not so enthusiastic for recreational activities. People used to go to sleep early after the sunset, as compared to the present times when even the children reluctantly go to sleep after watching the late night TV transmissions. The dead calm and quiet silence prevailed over the city after the sunset, followed by early rise to start the life with regular prayers. At dawn before the sunrise the Muslims used to go to their Mosques; and after the dawn the Hindus/Sikhs used to go to their temples/gurdwaras to pray. Chanting of their mantras “JAI JAGDISH HAREY” and “Bhajan” in their temples were so melodious to listen, and none felt any offensive there from. Similarly the Sikhs used to recite verses from their holy book the “GRANTH” with the musical instruments like harmonium and tablas. After the prayers the life started as usual with normal daily routine going to the offices and shops.
There was a very vast Race Course situated on the Peshawar Road, where races would be held weekly. Mostly the foreigners were the members who gathered in large numbers to attend the races. Ladies in their best dresses and fashionable hats with different styles were worth seeing at the show. There was an Agricultural Institute outside the city on the Murree Road. It was a huge and vast farm used to experiment and improve the quality of the seeds of the food grains. The farmers from all over the places used to come for help and guidance in their problems. They were helped with advice and necessary equipment to ease their problems. The farmers were given tree saplings of various variety free or on a very nominal price; along with improved quality of seeds for better production of the crops. The institute has now been converted into Agricultural University, which is functioning on advanced and modern technology. It is now called Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University (also known as Barani University). 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)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 10)
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi
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