“My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 14)

By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai

Rafique Ahmed Khan

Rafique Ahmed Khan

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 13……….

 Rawalpindi, Masjid Wahabiyan

Masjid Wahabiyan, Rawalpindi.

During pre 1940s days there were no proper Gents’ saloons in Rawalpindi; and for ladies it was out of question. There were barber shops here and there for high gentry; and for middle and low gentry there were roadside barbers. I remember a cluster of such barbers were performing in front of the Masjid Wahabiyan on the Jamia Masjid Road. They used to spread a 6×4 feet coir mat on the ground, and performed shaves or hair cuts of their regular clients on these mats. The antiseptics were unknown thing of this period. After shavings they used to massage the scalp/face of the client with a sizable mango seed, which used to be a part of their surgical instruments. Most probably the mango seed was used as an anti septic, which obviously worked there being no cases used to come out normally for any “Sycosis Barbae” infection. The barbers used to sharpen their shaving blades on a sand stone and to fine finish used a leather strip; one end of which they tied to the wall and other end they held with their left hand while sharpening the blades with their right hand.

Roadside barber.

Roadside barber.

The roadside barbers would become friendly with their clients and would exchange views discussing all types of subjects including the family developments of the clients. The barbers were quite familiar/informative with the family developments of lot of people and easily discuss the details giving suggestions and opinions in respect of the family affairs. They were distinctively very talkative; and once they start talking along with the shave, they would finish shaving long before their talking. But their talks were least boring and one would love to listen to the attractive and interesting topics.

The hair cut would be charged @ one anna, and shaving beards was charged @ two paisas by the roadside barbers; while these charges were doubled in the proper shops; which provided chairs to the customers. The fixed mirrors used to hang by the wall in front of the chair, but after the hair cut a hand mirror was used to show the back side of head from different angles to satisfy or for further suggestion by the customer.

Hot bathroom (Garam Hammam)

Garam Hammam.

Some Barbers had opened bath rooms called “Hammams” similar to the Turkish Baths. These Hammams were used by lot of people and as such used to remain crowded. Warm water, soap and towels were duly provided. Normally Sunlight soap (called Angrezi sabun) was provided, but Lux or Hammam Soap was also provided on very high rates. The customers had choice to use scented oil in lieu of the commonly supplied Mustard Oil to apply to their hair. In the scented oils “Zulf e Bengal” hair oil was a favorite choice. It was a local product made in Lal Kurti by a Sikh manufacturer, who supplied the oil all over India. This Sikh gentleman also invented “FIXO” a sort of binding gel to keep the beard well pressed to control flying/scattered beards. The Sikh gentlemen also used a thread along with “Fixo” to control such unruly beards.

 old Sunlight soap packing and Zulfe-Bengal hair oil

The wet towels used by the clients were hung inside the shop to dry to be reissued after the same got dried up. Such towels were washed only when they became extremely dirty.

There were another type of roadside “Ear Specialists” who used to clean the ears. They were available sitting side by side along with the barbers.  They used a very thin steel rod with a cotton bud at the end to take out the gum from the ears. They had also a sizable clientage, who used to get their ears cleaned regularly. The used to charge four annas to do the operation.

Roadside Dentist in Rawalpindi

Roadside Dentist in Rawalpindi.

There used to be road side “Dentists” who used to be available in the Raja Bazaar mostly or other prominent places with sizable presence of the public. They used to do extractions in addition to fixing the dentures also. They also fixed golden caps on the teeth. They were also seen quite busy with their “patients”. The people who were having severe toothache used to rush to these “dentists”, who used to pick up a rusty pliers from the lot of his tools lying on the piece of cloth spread on the ground, recite “Bismillah……” and extract the wrong tooth mostly with one jerk. After realizing the error the “dentist” tries to throw the blame on the angry “patient” in agony. After a length and heated argument the “patient”compelled by the agony of toothache agrees for the next try. Such type of ugly scenes were commonly seen at various spots. Some such “dentists” used to display diplomas duly framed with frosted/cracked glass, declaring the person passing the exams., with distinction.

In addition to the above quacks there were some Chinese dentists practicing in Lal Kurti area and Dalhousie Road (now Kashmir Road). They were running good practices in their clinics assisted by their wives as assistants, who used to take out the required instruments from the metal boiler, and pass on to the “doctor” in white coat. Their clinics were comparatively clean with satisfactory maintenance of hygiene, and were properly equipped with dental chair.

There were two local proper dentists. One was Dr. Shah who initially practiced in Lal Kurti, and later shifted to off Dalhousie Road. His daughters also got dentist degree from the Medical College. His clinic was well equipped with modern dentistry gadgets. But he was very expensive to approach for treatment. He was very soft spoken person with fair complexion looking like a European person. The other famous dentist practiced in the Raja Bazaar and was called “DORA” being a deaf person. He was also running a good practice. He seemed professionally sound, but his clinic was not up to that standard as Dr. Shah’s Clinic.

Sando (Bodybuilder)

Sando (Bodybuilder).

There used to be professional body builders in the city called “SANDOS”. They used to run body building schools for the young boys. These schools (AKHARAS)  were duly equipped with body building gadgets such as dumbles, pressure bars and weights etc; for use by the trainees. Well known “sandos” were Ashraf Sando, Taj Sando and Ilahi Sando. They used to hold demonstrations to show their muscular bodies which were worth seeing. They had a large number of trainees who used to learn free without any fee or charges. One of the “sandows” loved his wife so much that he started living in a tent by her grave after her death. This activity died down along with the death of the “sandos” due to lack of proper patronization and interest of the public. There was another gentleman Saleem who was an amateur and not a professional body builder. He used to work as a Canteen Manager in Central Ordnance Depot. Upon a complaint of his younger brother being bullied by Sikh play mates, Mr, Saleem rushed to the locality where the boys  resided and fought with all of them punching them left and right, and spared them only when some elders intervened and requested him to  finish the brawl.

There were another type of “Dandees” behaving like “Robin Hoods” and would not mind being called “Badmash”. They used to shelter weaklings against “Bullys”, and could fight with daggers and knives. They proudly kept knives made by “ROGERS”. They also kept locally made knives which created crackling noise while opening, Such knives would be called “KAMANEEDAR CHAQOOS”.  The quality of such knives was graded according to the number of “Kamanees”(the gears). Generally there used to be 2-7 “Kamanees” in each knife. These “Kamanees” on the base of the blade would strike a flexible steel strip and create crackling noise while opening to over awe the opponents. Some of these well known persons were Deeqa Badmaash, Shafi Badmash, Naaja Badmash, Ditta Badmaash, etc,. Being very aggressive no one could dare oppose/offend them without being thrashed. They used to run dens where games like dice, play cards were played with huge bets. The Punjab Police who were known as the best in whole of India being highly aggressive, tough, and efficient had some soft corner for these people who in spite of their undesirable activities helped police to nab the offenders. TO BE CONTINUED………….

Related Pages:
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)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 11)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 12)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 13)
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi 
Rawalpindi Blog 

Editor’s Note: 
Did you find this article interesting? Feel free to share it on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media by using the buttons below.
If it is not inconvenient, please do write a brief comment at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”.
You are welcome to contribute nostalgic articles about Rawalpindi by sending to the Editor at:  rashid.cheema11@gmail.com


  1. Tina Omari, USA says:

    Rafique Ahmed Khan Sahib,
    I cannot begin to tell you the memories you have evoked through your articles, memories which lay dormant for so many years. I lived the first 21 years of my life in Pindi and simple events which one took for granted and forgot along the way have been brought back to life through your writings. I salute you, Sir!
    Every place you have mentioned is like a vivid picture in my mind’s eye. I live in New York, but I call myself a Pindiite and for a while I wondered why I stayed so loyal to a city which has become such a dump, but reading your descriptions, I fall in love with that best of Cantonments all over again. Thank you.
    I await your next article with the anticipation of not being let down. I like your style because it is simple and yet succinctly descriptive. What a fabulous memory you have and may it continue to be so detailed and meticulous. God bless you.

    • Dear Madam,
      While thanking you for your such a nice and encouraging appreciation; I have to admit that I am passing through the 9th decade of my life, and it was my friends’ advice and the kind encouragement of Lt. Col. (R) Rashid Cheema (the Editor) that I started collecting my memoirs. Inspite of the old age blessings like Alzheimer, weakness, loss of drive for initiatives and interests and general weakness. As I am not a professional writer, you may be coming across academic & grammatical shortcomings which I hope may be triggering your sense of humour instead of any serious criticism.
      Thanking you again Madam and with Blessings.

  2. Shaheda Rizvi, Canada says:

    Dear Rafique Khan Saheb,

    Thank you so much for another priceless segment. I loved reading the chapters on “Hammams”, “Soaps”, “Towels” etc. and especially the names assigned to Docs, e.g., “DOORA” and to body builders: “SANDOOS”.

    I wonder if this is a peculiarity of our times or of our life-customs, traditions, way of expression or just a Pindi-custom that goes deeper than one can imagine. I am referring here to the names given to people for a certain particularity, for example, deaf Dentist, was referred to as “ Dr. Doora” .

    We too, in the Westridge area had a “Dr. Doora”— — I recall this name with fondness and familiarity rather than as a deficit. It was so much easier to remember the name, although, we were never supposed to address him as Dr. Doora, it was all behind his back!!

    My prayers and thoughts for you and your family.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Madam,
      Many thanks for your anxiously awaited comments and nice appreciation. I remember in our times it was quite customary to call nick names in token of affection, jealousy, personal appearance or any such reason. Such names were also called out of respect for example the blind persons were called “Hafiz Jee”, the bearded persons were called “Molvi or Maulana Sahib” regardless of his qualifications. A fat or heavy weight person was called “Mota or Pehalwan”. Mostly such persons did not mind these names rather became used to.
      Thanking you again.

  3. Azam Gill, France says:

    Dear Rafique Khan Sahib,

    Thank you once again for such a fascinating time machine created by your pen. Learning that someone remembers kamanidar chaqoos in the day of of Sig Sauers and Kalashnikovs, and of the sandos that used to be, a derivative inspired by the name of

    “Eugen Sandow (April 2, 1867 – October 14, 1925), born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, a German pioneering bodybuilder known as the “father of modern bodybuilding … he measured the statues in museums and helped to develop ‘The Grecian Ideal’ as a formula for the ‘perfect physique.’ Sandow built his physique to the exact proportions of his Grecian Ideal”.

    • Dear Azam Gill Sahib,
      Thank you sir, for your interest in my memoirs. As I have to remember my past of primitive type of simple but equally lethal weapons used by strong and healthy persons in one to one fights, the new generation will remember the present lethal weapons used by only one person against hundreds or even thousands. The trigger pressed by one pilot resulted the destruction of two entire cities Hiroshama and Nagasaki. Isn’t it a cowardice ?
      Similarly the local sandows mentioned by me were really outstanding & worth appreciating; exercising with simple dumbbells and crude pieces of stones as against the modern scientific machines of the present times.The Europeans have always been progressive who kept struggling to invent or improve the existent gadgets successfully. But we did not have any initiative for such improvements, and remained satisfied and contended with whatever we had.
      Thanking you again.

  4. Maj Gen (Retd) Parvez Akmal says:

    Dear Rafique Khan Sahib,

    Thanks for sharing another beautiful article. The roadside barbers and quacks can still be seen even in big cities. Here is an interesting observation from my three year old granddaughter who had been to a beauty parlor with her mother a few times. When she saw an open roadside mens’ ‘salon’ near Bakery Chowk, Westridge 2, she inquired, “Mama, aadmeon kay parlor kion nahin hotey?”

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Maj Gen Parvez Akmal,
      Thank you sir, for your nice appreciation. The difference between the old and modern roadside barbers is that the former did not have any advance type anti septic lotion except a piece of alum or the grit of mango seed, which they used to rub on the face or head after the clean shave.
      You did not post your reply to the innocence personified anxious granddaughter’s query with regards to the Men’s Parlors. In Dubai there are Men’s parlors; where the young ones regularly go for facials and massage, etc.
      Thanking you, sir.

      • Maj Gen (Retd) Parvez Akmal says:

        Oops sir, interestingly your query is innocent too. “) Imagine a three year old who had not seen a proper men’s barber shop, let alone a parlor which, she reckoned, were meant to serve ladies only; she believed all men, including her papa, had their hair cut by the roadside!! And by the way, in small towns and villages often alum alone still suffices.
        Best regards. Looking forward to see more of beautiful old Pindi.

        • Dear Maj. Gen. Parvez Akmal,
          No sir, my query is neither innocent nor weird. But surely her inquisitiveness required some satisfying reply as per her age and child psychology, in the absence of which her query would have been deposited in her subconscious to remain inquisitive throughout; to develop her own wrong concept of the subject.
          Thanking you again.

  5. Almas Tirmizi says:

    Dear Sir,
    You really made me so nostalgic about Pindi! Though I was born in the 1960s, yet I remember seeing these road side Dentists and ENT Specialists on my way to school or while going to the Railway Station. Misri Khan Sahib, the Headmaster of Danny’s High School was a very good friend of my grandfather Syed Niaz Ahmed Tirmizi, Headmaster, Muslim High School, who had migrated to Pakistan from East Punjab in 1947. My Father, his eldest son was a student of class 10th at that time. I was born and raised in Rawalpindi. Your sweet recollection of the Old Pindi, has brought countless memories of the city to my mind. I sincerely hope, someday soon, I can also write a similar article about our beautiful city. Please continue penning down your interesting recollections of the past.
    Wish you good health!

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Almas Tirmizi,
      Many thanks for your nice appreciation and gracious prayers. Incidentally I know both gentlemen M/s Misri Khan And Sayed Niaz Ahmed Tirmizi. The were very well known gentlemen holding so respectable posts. Kindly do read all the episodes of my memoirs to know more about Pindi your birth place. Please try writing and soon you will hit on some very interesting subject.
      May God bless you.

  6. Lt Col (R) Muhammad Arshad Meer says:

    Good one. Thanks a lot for educating us. May God reward you for this kindness.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Col Arshad Meer,
      Many thanks sir, for your kind gratitude and appreciation.

  7. Sultan Jamshed says:

    Dear sir,
    Do you remember Dr. Jehangir’s Clinic in Lalkurti which was in front of Dr. Shah’s Clinic. Dr. Jehangir was very prominent personality of Lalkurti. His son was also a very renowned Artist whose paintings had been admired during exhibitions. “Yad-e-mazi azab hey ya Rab, cheen ley mujh sey hafiza maira”

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Mr. Sultan Jamshed Sahib,
      Thanks for your comment sir, reminding me of Dr. Jahangir’s Clinic. I do remember his clinic while going to Dr, Shah’s clinic.

    • Lt Col (R) Muhammad Arshad Meer says:

      Sultan Jamshed Sahib,
      Please do not pray for ‘hafiza chheenana’ because people of my age are already quite exposed to senile dementia. More over, in Ramadan
      duas are accepted rapidly. Hahaha

  8. Lt Col Masood Alam (retd) says:

    Dear Rafique Sahib,
    Thanks for sharing old memories. You take us back to our childhood days. Many things which you have narrated were similar in other cites too. I saw many of them but details have been disclosed by you now. Your narration is amazing. Thanks again for this information. Regards

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Lt. Col Masood Alam (retd) Sahib
      Very kind of you sir, to appreciate and encourage me with regards to my memoirs

  9. Brig (R) Khalil-ur-Rehman says:

    Dear Rafique Sb,
    I was waiting for your next article for the last two days. Thanks for your fresh write up. In the 1950s as a child I do remember having hair cut on ground in my village. Good old days, simple, sincere and clean people. May God bless them.
    Sir, can I ask you to write on fasting ie, sehri and iftari menu, tarawee and percentage of people offering tarawee, behavior of Hindus and Sikhs in the month of Ramzan? We had the experience of fasting in India during captivity. The Indians generally respected our religious obligations.
    With best regards.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Brig Khalil-Ur-Rehman,
      Very kind and nice of you sir, to appreciate and encourage me with regards to my memoirs.
      Apart from a few solitary and negligible cases by some very narrow minded religious fanatics; there was a general sense of harmony, tolerance and mutual respect prevailing in the city. Those fanatics were duly hated even by their own fellows, I still remember the Hindus and Sikhs duly attending and participating the funerals and marriages of their Muslim friends eagerly with sincere intentions. I also remember the Hidu/Sikh ladies and gents visiting the shrines of Muslim Saints like Shah Chan Chiragh, Barri Imam and other such famous saints; and paying their respect and homage.
      Interestingly in my case one of my Sikh class fellows, Avtar Singh Duggal, looked after the grave of my late father in Bhopal and kept me informed till he died a few years back.

      • Brig (R) Khalil-ur-Rehman says:

        Will you plz consider writing pre Partition Ramzan in sub continent as requested in my email?

        • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

          Dear sir,
          Sure sir, I will include your suggestion in my subsequent instalments.
          Thanking you.

  10. Zahir Khan says:

    Rafique Sahib,
    Do you recall the Lakar Pir (Wooden pir) whose grave was situated near the Leh bridge (Mareer Hasan) where there were two taals (wood sellers)? The municipality decided to widen the bridge and got a fatwa that a grave can be moved. When they opened the grave they found a log of wood. The taal owners would pocket the givings thrown by passersby on Thursdays.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Zahir Khan Sahib,
      I think you are mentioning about the grave of Pir Nou Gaza, who was supposed to be nine yards tall. Ye,s it was removed by the railway administration to widen the bridge after the Partition.

  11. Nostalgic. I wonder what happened to the Shah Clinic?

    • Dear Brig Zafar,
      Now his daughters are running the clinic in Saddar.

      • Zahir Khan says:

        They have now moved to Saadi Road, the link road between Kashmir Road and Murree Road behind the old GTS (wow Varan) Bus Depot. The present are actually the grandchildren of Dr. Shah.

  12. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah says:

    Dear Sir,
    Excellent narration, I request the Editor to please shape your memoirs in a book form.

    • Editor says:

      Dear Maj Khalid Saeed Shah,
      Please refer to the reply of Rafique Khan Sahib to your similar ‘demand’ in Part 13 :)

      Dear Maj Khalid Saeed Shah,
      Many thanks for your kind appreciation. As regards your proposed book I have no experience to write such book; and I doubt whether Lt Col Rashid Cheema (Editor) would be able to offer any help in this regard. Your further elaboration is requested in the matter. Thanking you again.

  13. Editor says:

    Rafique Khan Sahib,
    As usual it is a wonderful article which is a history of Rawalpindi as well. Keep it up, sir.

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