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 13……….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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………….
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
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