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 15……….
Being one of the biggest garrison cities of India, the population of Rawalpindi mostly considered of immigrants from the other cities; who came in connection with their profession and to seek the jobs in the Government Offices. The locals made only one-fourth of the entire population, and soon were overtaken by the people from the adjoining localities or from the rest of India. Every arrival of the Military Units on posting to Pindi, brought with them a fresh batch of outsiders: who remained to live in Pindi permanently, at the time of the Units’ posting out. Eventually in the Cantonment especially one could find the “Poorbee” speaking menials like Cooks, Bearers, and Sweepers, etc., who came along with the respective Units as temporary civilian staff, but left over in Pindi to settle and work independently.
Majority of visitors were from the adjoining areas like Murree Hills, Kashmir, most of whom settled permanently. Another big chunk of the population was Punjabi speaking people from Gujranwala, Gujrat and Sialkot, etc. These Punjabi speaking persons were mostly the Tailors, Embroiders and Barbers. The Pushto speaking Pathans from N.W.F.P. (Now KPK) were mainly dealers in fuel wood, Steam coal and Charcoal storing their merchandise in big yards called “TAALLS”. They were seen splitting the wooden logs by hand with the heavy axes and chisels.
The non skilled laborers were mostly Kashmiris or Pathans who were hired for all types of hard labour. They would carry a load of forty to fifty Kgs., easily on their backs to the destinations covering a long distance. The wages of non skilled labourer were one/two Annas; where as the Skilled technicians used to receive from 4 to 8 Annas per day or as per the specification of the job. The Iron Mongers (LOHAARS), Brick Layers (RAAJ) and Non Skilled Laborers were mostly Muslims; whereas good and highly skilled Carpenters, Electricians and Mechanics were mostly Hindus and Sikhs assisted by the Muslims learners (CHOTAAS).
In the Education field during 1920’s, 80 % students were non-Muslims. The percentage of the Muslims started increasing from the 1930’s. The trend of the Muslims towards the education gained momentum after the World War Two (1939-1945), when the number of the Muslim male students especially post Matric could be considered as appreciable. The number of female Muslim students was still deplorable. I remember only one Girls School (Government Girls High School) near “Bagh Sardaran” in the city up to 1940’s functioning in the city area, who used to employ female peons (Maees) to escort the students from their residence to the School and vice versa. I still remember the “Maee” of our area with the name of Maee Banee, a white complexioned, green-eyed , snow-white haired old but very tough and active lady who used to shout the name of the girl without knocking at the door and leaving for the next house without waiting for the called one. If the called girl would not come out in the meantime, then what a rough treatment she used to face, she would not forget the whole day. After collecting the allotted number of girls from their residences, she used to herd them to the School. She would drop them home after the school time. It went on for years till the Partition of India; when the system of manual pick up and drop by the School was abolished.
During and prior to 1930’s children had to be respectful to their teachers and elders; and no child or teen-ager dared to become free with elders especially to their parents. The teachers would not tolerate a slight deviation to this practice and unruly students were severely beaten with sticks. Some teachers would twist the ears so harshly that darkness would appear before the tearful eyes. Generally teachers would ask the students to bend down and hold their ears with their hands through their legs. It was called “MURGHA”, and a very painful posture which the students could hardly stand for more than 5 to 10 minutes. As a lesser harsh punishment the students would be asked to stand on their seats till the period ended.
I remember having been kissed only once in my whole life by my extra reserve father, when I was sick and bed ridden. I had to stand on my bed to reach his lips to receive the lonely kiss, the warmth and sweetness of which I will never forget. Being a typical Pathan but highly educated, he was least sentimental but otherwise very reasonable and considerate. After my passing the Matriculation examination, he took me personally the following day to Mr. Cummigs the Principal of the Gordon College (who knew him very well), who initialed with indelible pencil on my plain application his initials only as “JBC” (His full name Mr. J B Cummings), to accept me provisionally, because it was very early and the admissions had not started yet, and the application was not formal on the proper printed form. The real Principal Mr. R.R. Stewart was on leave in his country USA.
There were common as well as communal schools functioning in the city and cantonment areas. Islammia High School, Mission High School, Khalsa High School, Sanatan Dharam High School and Muslim High School were well-known schools in the city area; whereas Denny’s High School was functioning in the Saddar Area. There were only two Colleges situated in the city area viz; the Gordon College and the D A V College.
The Hindu/Sikh teaching staff apparently behaved impartially even though they personally had some dislike for the Muslims. In the Mission High School where I had studied, the Hindu/Sikh staff used to gather in an open space during the Half Break. They used to have one apple, one orange and one banana which were brought by the Peon Mr. Benyamin from a Hindu vendor on credit against the common account. The vendor was paid monthly. The Muslim staff also gathered at a different place in the same compound. But their refreshment included only carrots or radish and “Gandeyries” (small pieces of sugarcane).
The town which a few centuries ago was originally occupied by Awans, Ghakhars, Satis and Arains etc., had now become a cosmopolitan city comprised by Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees, Buddhists, Bohras, British and Anglo Indians who worshiped freely according to various respective religions in their specific praying places. Accordingly there was an appreciable number of Mosques, Mandirs, Gurdawaras, Churches, Jamaat Khanas operational in the City as well as in the Saddar areas. Some of these praying buildings were magnificently designed/built to become historical. The Parsi Fire Temple with burial-place is still in its original position and is worth seeing on Murree Road. Some Churches in the cantonment and city area are also being maintained very carefully to keep their originality and have attained a historical position. TO BE CONTINUED……………..
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