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 14……….
Before 1940s the life in Rawalpindi remained very simple and easy. Very few went out without wearing long coat and cap. During winter the coats or the overcoats were woolen, and during summer cotton coats were worn. The normal dress would be “Shalwar & Qameez” tailored with cotton cloth. The high gentry used silk cloth called “RESHMI”. One type of silk was used with pride was China Silk “TWO HORSE” brand called “DOU GHORA BOSKEY”. The Muslims used “FEZ” (Turkish caps), while the Hindus used a black or dark brown round hard dwarf cap. The Sikhs used turbans to cover their heads. The Muslims also used to wear turbans in various fashions. One was called “Pugrhi”. It was a white long fine muslin cloth called “Malmal”. After being starched it was wound on a round or coned scalp cap called “KULLAH”. The costly “Kullah” was embroidered with gold thread called “Zari” with a price up to Rs.100/- each. One end of the long cloth was kept in spread position on the shoulders at the back; whereas the other end (six to ten inches) was kept erect facing sky. Being heavily starched it would stand straight majestically high; and would give an impressive look to the person. This type of turban is still used in the Army in the Sub Continent during ceremonial parades or otherwise.
The other type of turban was called “MUSHEHDI LUNGEE”. It was made with coloured costly silk. There were “Lungees” of black or grey coloured and sold at medium to very high price. It was also wound on round or coned “KULLAHAS” similarly as the white muslin cloth. It was a symbol of status; and mostly the Muslims used to wear it.
The Hindus would also use to wear the turbans but without “Kullahs” on their naked heads; and were called “LALA JI” as a mark of respect.
The thick Solar Pith British colonial hats during hot season, and felt caps were also used by the Indians, while wearing suits (pants and coats). These suits were also tailored with cotton or woolen cloth according to the weather. Neck ties and Bows were also worn while wearing the western dress. High gentry also wore three piece suits.
Though it was not mandatory but suits (Pant, Coat with neck tie) were commonly worn by the Hindu/Sikh employees working in the offices. Majority of indoor senior staff, Officers, Professors, Teachers, Doctors, and Lawyers wore westerns dress. Many of the Muslims (Specially High Gentry) also used the western dress. Generally the Muslims wore long coats over their Punjabi dress with Fez cap, “KARRAKULLY” caps (“Peshawari” caps) made with costly lamb skin and turbans as head dress. Many people would not mind wearing solar hats, neck ties or Bows with their Punjabi dress (Shalwar Qameez). This cotton dress (specially the white shalwar) was mostly starched which looked very smart. A healthy matured person with stiff moustache wearing starched Shalwar, Boski Qameez, “Zari Jooty” (local foot ware), costly “KARRAKULLY” cap or “Mushahdi Lungi”, Gold rimmed spectacles, with “West End” or “Favourleuba” wrist watch walking with highly polished costly “Timber” wood walking stick and smoking “PLAYERS NAVY CUT,” “CAPSTAN” or “GOLD FLAKE” cigarettes was worth seeing an impressive “PINDI WAL”. Some would carry a Tin (pack of 50 cigarettes) of cigarettes and Match Box in their hands.
The diet was also very simple. Food in lunch or dinner was cooked afresh. Average common Muslim would have meat in the lunch, and vegetable/pulses in the dinner. Well- to- do persons would have mutton both times. Mostly vegetables were cooked with mutton. Normally one dish meal was cooked in average households by house wives themselves, but high gentry would enjoy more than one dish meals made by the cooks. Delicacies in food were PULAO, ZARDA, KHEER, GAJRELA, SHAMI KABABS, KOFTEY (Meat balls), QORMA, SIRI PAYAE, SHAB DAIG (a Kashmiri dish made with whole turnips with beef cooked over night), etc.
Generally meals were taken in the kitchens in average houses sitting on “PEEHRHYS” or wooden “BEENDAS” with food kept on wooden “CHOWKEES” along with hot fresh swollen “Chappatys” right from the “CHOOLAHS”. The meals were also taken on “DASTER KHWANS” spread on the carpets or “Durrees” on the floor. The hot breads “ROTEES” from the “TANDOORS” were served with the freshly cooked single dish accompanied by salad made with onion, tomatoes, “poodna” (MINT) “Chatney” plain or mixed with cucumber in Curd. How much we enjoyed such sumptuous, pure, fresh and hot satisfying meals, it can not be expressed in words.
The average breakfast of common persons (like govt; Class III employees) was Qandhari (Oblong pointed) Naans with “malai” or left over curry from last dinner, Rusks or “Paratha” with tea. The Shop-keepers cum business men would generally take naans with ‘siri paye, “Halwa Poorees”, whereas locals from Murree Hills/Kashmir would take salted/sweet green tea with “Baqar Khaanees” and “Kulchas” (a half round saltish baked biscuit) dipped in the tea, made with milk, tea leaves and sugar boiled all together, and poured direct into the cups with saucers. High gentry and officer cadre would of course take eggs (boiled, fry or omelet), butter on toasts, orange marmalade Jams with “separate type tea” (tea leaves in boiled water in TEA POT) and milk in Jug kept separately. In big hotels and Officers’ Messes the half boiled eggs were served in beautifully designed ceramic egg pots with narrow end of the egg chipped off to facilitate taking the egg with special small silver spoons.
During early times the Hindus were not in the habit of taking tea like the Muslims. They used to take milk with “PHENI” a sort of biscuit made with fine vermicelli pressed and baked. They also liked curd in breakfast. Being strictly vegetarians, their staple diet including cereals and vegetables was cooked in pure ghee (Butter Oil). They must grease their “CHAPAATYS” or “TANDOORI ROTYS” with pure ghee or butter: and never ate dry Chapaatys. They used to have their meals served on big metallic round trays, with various small round metallic cups containing cooked food, various pickles, rice and greased “chapaatys” with pure “ghee” or butter. One ingredient in the spices of their food was very compulsory; “HEENG” (Asafoetida) to treat the distended stomach with gases due to regular intake of pulses.
I still remember an incident when I was working in the Military Farms during 1940s: the Head Clerk was an orthodox Hindu who would greet with folded hands, and would never shake hands specially with the Muslims. He had a habit of washing his hands after shaking hands with the non Hindus specially the Muslims. He used to behave like a simpleton stooge, but in fact he was very shrewd. He was a staunch vegetarian. Once in a staff tea party he was seen taking the slices of cake and the pastries eagerly and looked enjoying very much. His next assistant a typical pathan asked him “Lala Jee! Why are you taking the pastry which is made with eggs; when you are strictly a vegetarian?” Upon hearing this the Lala became very upset and felt very indignant. But before saying anything he quickly galloped the half finished piece of cake instead of throwing it away: and then started blaming the staff for not telling him before. Every one enjoyed his simplicity cum hypocrisy.
With the passage of time after 1940s, a visible change started in the diet of the Hindus, who started taking meat and poultry also. They also started using ceramic plates and glasses replacing the metallic ware. The Hindu high gentry used to have the Muslim cooks; which was unimaginable before 1930s.
One menace was of course prevalent in large scale in Pindi – it was smoking. Almost every adult would smoke with the exception of Sikhs. Smoking before or next to a Sikh was just like waving a red rag before a bull. There were lot of varieties of cigarettes in the market, like Gold Flake, Players Navy Cut, Capstan, Craven A, and Dunhill, etc., available in packs of ten, twenty and fifty cigarettes. Fifty cigarettes packs were made of air-tight tins. There was a small cutter fixed on the lids to open the tins.
Aristocrats and old Military Officers used to smoke Havana/Cuba Cigars and tobacco in the costly pipes. There were a lot varieties of the cigars like VEGAS, Frasier, GURKHA and DIESEL, etc. The cigars used to come in small beautiful wooden boxes. The various brands of tobacco used to come in sealed tins or glazed paper packets like IMPERIAL, HEARTH, GRAND PA and PRINCE ALBERT, etc. 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)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 14)
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi
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