“My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 16)

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 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.

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi Blog

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi BlogMajority 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).

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi Blog

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.

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi BlogThere after the sharing “Tongas” were hired or the parents arranged personally or used other means for the pick up/drop of their daughters.

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi BlogDuring 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.

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi BlogI 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. 

TO BE CONTINUED……………..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).

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi Blog

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……………..

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi Blog

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi Blog

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi Blog

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi Blog

My Old but Ever New Pindi (Part 16) Rawalpindi Blog

Related Pages:
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. Mohindra Singh Chowdhry says:

    It is just great to read to read about a city where I was born.My parents, Grand Parents and perhaps great grand parents were born there too. I my self have no recollections of Pindi, but the name still does electrifying magic and stirs the entire blood stream in my body which requires no further explanation and neither is possible to explain such a feeling but does 360 degrees of sentiments. Interesting to note such remarks like Pindi being a very cosmopolitan city ( since centuries ) but sad how badly things turned upside down for every body. I am pleased to say that soil of Pindi has made a lover of all religions especially Islam.
    Mohindra S Chowdhry ( a Sikh )

  2. Abid Hussain says:

    your enviable memory has left one aspect of Rawalpindi: cinemas. It would be interesting to note when the first cinema was constructed in the city and what films were screened there. Was the Cantonment area exclusively meant for the British rulers. What about Rawalpindi Club. When was Flashman’s built. There must have been no prohibition in pre-partition days. Kindly write something about the cultural side too.

    At the end I must say that you have immortalised Rawalpindi with your excellent essays. Please write more and more.

  3. Farhat Khawaja MD says:

    Dear Khan Sahib,
    Heart warming nostalgia. Any idea when Jamia Masjid was built? My family came to Rawalpindi in 1948 on a very rainy day with flooding in Pindi. I still LOVE PINDI.


      Dear Farhat Khawaja,
      The foundation stone of the Jamia Masjid was laid in 1903 and completed in 1905. Thank you for the appreciation

  4. Riffet Khan says:

    Dear uncle Rafique,
    I was waiting for this. Thank you.

  5. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah says:

    BRAVO Sir, we eagerly wait for your PINDI NAMA and enjoy reading it. Keep the good job continued. God Bless.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Maj Khalid Saeed Shah,
      Very many thanks for your such a keen & nice interest in my Memoirs.
      May God Bless you.

  6. Shaheda Rizvi, Canada says:

    Dear Rafique Ahmed Khan Sahib,

    I have the same words of praise as Azam Gill’s + a marvelous rendition of history which weaves the good, bad and the fair very aesthetically. That said, a comment for Azam Gill: Re: differences in titles: Azam Gill, I had no idea how to correct my well-meaning friends, when they sent a global FB message: “Eid Mubarak to all my Islamist friends” ..

    I wanted to say…Please, please..the word for one who follows ISLAM is MUSLIM, not Islamist— Islamist is a word coined by Salman Rushdie, referring specifically to a group of violent fundamentalists and lumping everyone as Islamist is not fair. Furthermore, Arabic is a very rich & structured language with strict rules on root words and their proper derivatives, for example: jihad: mujahid; Safar: musafir; Islam: Muslim–so let’s be careful…but you’ve given me the perfect words to carry on with this mission, next Eid: I’ll begin with the following:

    “It is with much humility and deep respect that I have drawn your attention to such a minor, negligible point which detracts nothing from the ethos of your piece.”

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      My dear Madam,
      I have to thank you and Bless you for your regular, constant & keen interest to read my Memoirs, and encourage me in my struggle to collect my fading memories in such an advanced age, Respected Mr. Azam Gill is also another admirer/critique of my Memoirs with his regular reading of all the Episodes with equally keen and cautious attitude and shoots “Bulls eyes” whenever he finds any short coming from his point of view, in my narration.

      As regards the incorrect word “ISLAMIST’ (Which is not found in any dictionary at least the most reliable “OXFORD”) seems to be an invention of Salman Rushdie out of hatred and some complex. The word “Islamising” is of course included as a verb, & “Islamic” as an adjective. He add the word “Die” (RUSH DIE) inadvertently to his name proving his continuous mental death all the times till his physical death. This shows the Divine punishment to him for his insolence: inviting “DEATH UPON HIM”, when ever his name is called by any one. The correct word is ISLAMIC found in all the dictionaries.
      The correct version of such compliments should be “EAD MUBARAK TO ALL THE MUSLIMS IN THE WORLD”. This is my humble view in this regard.
      Thanking and blessing you again.

  7. Major( R) Shahin Khan says:

    Once again a fantastic article my dear sir, may Allah bless you with a long life. Ameen

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Mjor (R) Shahin Khan Saheb
      Highly thankful to you sir, for your such gracious appreciations and kind sentiments for me

  8. Tina Omari says:

    Dear Rafique Sahib,
    You continue to amaze me with the minutest of details that you relate each post with. Every time I have read your articles, I have wondered what you will write and you never disappoint me. I salute this brain of yours which has so much stored in it, and I suspect that you are much younger than you keep saying you are!!!!
    Your mention of the Taal took me back to my childhood as there was a very big one right next door to our house. From manually cutting those logs the owner, a big burly Pathan, got a log cutting machine installed and my younger brother still has a dent in his lip from standing too close to the area where the logs were cut and getting hit by a log.
    The tongas coming to school, overflowing with kids, some of them sitting on the outside planks on the sides; some sitting on the lower platform with their legs dangling precariously just inches from the road and the more daring, usually boys, hanging from the iron rod used to pull oneself up onto the seat. What great days!
    May God bless you and keep you remembering and writing for many more years.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Madam,
      Many thanks for your gracious appreciations and encouragement. In fact you have whipped my memory to remember the “Tongas” driven by weak & underfed horses: but overloaded with children, and the “Kochwan” in his advanced age & without any sign of himself whether he is sitting or standing on one of the “Bamboos” of the “Tonga” inching to the various schools. But of course he was considered most trustworthy person to be entrusted with the custody of dozen of children safety. He behaved just like a hen hatching two dozen eggs successfully. Thanking you again and with Blessings

  9. Sultan Jamshed says:

    Dear sir,
    What a wonderful account of old memories still afresh. The picture depicted as “Murghaa” is very much familiar since I, as a naughty student, had been through this ordeal in my school life. I pray to Allah Kareem to bless you with health so that you could make us joyful with old time memories.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Mr. Sultan Jamshed Saheb,
      I thank you for your nice, gracious appreciation & encouragement, In fact it s your “ordeal” as a student is the real cause of the success & satisfaction in your life which you are enjoying now by the Grace of God. Thanking you again & with Blessings

  10. Azam Gill, France says:

    Thank you, Rafique Khan Sahib, for continuing the good work with your fine penmanship. I appreciate the esteem you retain for Dr. Cummings, as did my father. By calling him Father Cummings, your desire to be respectful is admirable. However, he was a protestant and was referred to as ‘Doctor’ and not ‘Father’ as a Catholic priest would. That said, sir, it is with much humility and deep respect that I have drawn your attentions to such a minor, negligible point which detracts nothing from the ethos of your piece.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Mr. Azam Gill,
      Many thanks for your kind & nice appreciation, I know that both the then Principals were known as Dr. J.B. Cummings & Dr. R.R. Stewart (One of the greatest Botanists in the World). Both had taught me in the Gordon College, I have a very special reverence for Dr. Cummings being a friend of my father and was very nice and familiar with me. It may be of some interest for you that he at once recognized me at the Pindi Railway Station when we came across face to face during long afterwards when I was in service after leaving the College. I feel very happy & obliged to find you so keen to observe such details minutely, while going through each and every detail of my writings.
      Thanking you again and with Blessings.

  11. Lovely to read your memories, you do it so well and it gives a good flavour of life.

  12. Lt Col Masood Alam (retd) says:

    Dear Rafique Khan sahib,
    Sir, Thanks once again for giving us the insight of Pindi and that too of days before I was born. The information is very educational. I regret all the good things narrated by you are no more there. The harmony and brotherhood as described by you can not be seen these days, rather things are opposite. The article with pictures have become more attractive. I am sure this is the job of Col Cheema (Editor). Thanks Cheema. Keep on doing the good work.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Lt. Col. Masood Alam,
      So kind and nice of you Sir, for your gracious appreciation & encouragement. Of course the old traditions and environments are under the unavoidable change with the passage of time; and we have nothing else but to accept the universal process.
      With blessings,

  13. Maj (R) Tanvir Talat says:

    Good article, sir.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Maj (R) Tanvir Talat
      Thank you sir for the appreciation

      • Muhammad Sattar Khan says:

        Dear Rafique Ahmed Khan Sahib,

        Do you have any memories of “F.G Primary and High School” located in Lalkurti?
        Thank you for such great memories.
        Best best regards,

        • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

          Dear Mr. Sattar Saheb,
          As I used to live in the City area I do not have any memory with regards to this School which seems to have started long after the Partition. Thanking you for the query.

  14. Rafique Khan Sahib,
    Another wonderful piece from your sharp memory, Masha Allah.

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