“My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 18)

By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai

Rafique Ahmed Khan, pic for articleEditor’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 1930′s, 40′s and 50′s.

Continued from Part 17……….
During old days the schools and colleges used to take out the students with staff for excursion tours outside the city. I remember while studying in the Mission High School Rawalpindi, our class was taken to Taxila. A senior teacher Master Laddoo Mull Bhatti who was a Christian and very fond of going round the historical places was assigned to lead us in the tour. He had already seen a lot of historical places all over India and used to tell us about his adventures during his visits to olden caves, old ruins of temples, churches and forts in the central and south India. He used to go for sight-seeing during the summer vacations regularly and used to keep a record of what he used to see.

He was our English language teacher and his classes used to be very interesting. As it was not his first trip to Taxila so he made all the needed arrangements for the trip. We deposited rupee one each student and he arranged group booking on the train in 3rd class compartment. How we boys enjoyed the train journey, the memory is still as fresh in my mind as at that time. After arrival at Taxila railway station we were marched to the Museum and shown the old relics of Buddha and other articles found during the excavation of the old civilization pertaining to Hindu, Budh and Jain times. I still remember the various sized statues and other articles in big glass boxes and outside lying on the floor and counters.

Taxila Railway Station

Pic of Taxila Museum

I still remember the glittering gold and silver jewelry, household articles, old coins, tools & implements used in agriculture, masonry, iron mongering, carpentry, weaponry (arrow heads) etc, well placed on the tables in the rooms.

Taxila Museum, Silver Jewelry

I was very much impressed by the Stupas and big size Buddha’s with the same imposing grandeur and saintly piety. There were other statues like Sleeping Budha, Fasting Budha, etc, placed in the main/side rooms.

A Stupa in Taxila

As our teacher was well familiar with the Museum, he took us round explaining everything to us. He informed us about the Ghandhara civilization and arts so precisely in such a simple but comprehensive way that I still remember his words. Though we could not go to the various excavation sites like Sirkap (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirkap), etc, but he told us briefly about the details of the excavated remains of the buildings pertaining to the Monasteries, Schools, Hostels and living houses.

 Sirkap site, Taxila, Pakistan.

After visiting the Museum he took us to a roadside restaurant “Dhaba” where we had our lunch which consisted of only one dish “Palak gosht” and tandoori roties served in aluminum plates kept in straw trays called “Chungaires”. As there were only a couple of benches lying for the customers some of the boys had to sit on the grass.

Pakistani roadside 'Dhaba'

While coming back to the railway station our teacher bought some fresh white “Moolys” (reddish) from a passing bullock cart as a gift for his family. We boarded the train and came back to Pindi in the evening. On the way back also we enjoyed the return trip as a joy ride.

In the Gordon College also we used to go out on every “Founders’ Day”. Once I remember we were taken to “Swan Camp” by the River Swan about 3-4 miles from the Civil Courts, and almost a mile from the Attock Oil Company. We went in buses hired by the College and remained there for the whole day. During those days it was a far-flung deserted area. We were served with meals and snacks arranged by the catering contractors. There were “Poorys” (Fried chapaties) with nicely cooked potato and vegetables followed by ice cream. There were comedy talk and music shows by the students. After enjoying all the day we were brought back to the College.

Image of Gordon College, Rawalpindi

Apart from such excursions, inter school literary debates used to be held off and on. I remember one such debate when the topic “THE NEED OF SOCIAL REFORMS IN INDIA” was debated by the students from various schools. The debate was held in the Gordon College with contestants from various schools. I along with two more students represented Mission High School. Every student was given five minutes to speak and the function lasted till late night. The Hall was full with the students and other audience. Unluckily our School lost and the winners were from Denny’s High School and the Convent School. Our teacher in charge made our lives hell for the next complete week for losing the debate, because he earned the displeasure of the Headmaster for not giving proper training to us. We heard later that he was severely reprimanded.

In addition the orators/guest speakers used to be called to speak on different topics. Once a Sikh gentleman representing some “Temperance Society” was invited who spoke on the various types of intoxication with their undesirable effects. He laid stress mainly on the tobacco smoking in various forms. He advised the students, who were in the habit of tobacco smoking and wanted  to quit smoking, that they should keep one small “Ilaichi” (green cardamom) and one/two small sticks of “SAT PODEENA” (Chlorus hydras) besides the gums in the mouth to chew; which will remove the nicotine deposited in the tonsils and thus help to stop the habit of smoking. One of my Sikh class fellow asked as how to stop his father who drinks too much. He said “Ask your mother (if you can not) break the bottle secretly he brings home. Or put some hot red chili powder in the bottle.To our laughter he recommended also a pinch or two of “DHATOORA” powder (strong purgative). He said that after sometimes being sensible he will himself leave it; when no longer be able to afford the loss of money or taste.

Our School used to invite on and off the magicians, who used to perform in the Main Hall of the School. It was a big entertainment for us to enjoy the magic show. I remember once a group of Chinese magician/jugglers were performing in the Hall. It looked very strange and  funny when they used to discover the items which disappeared from the table or from their hand in front of the audience; from the pockets of the boys sitting in the Hall. They repeated this trick a number of times using eggs, pens and ink-pots etc., using comic language making the audience laugh again and again. One trick I would never forget when he kept one pigeon in the hat, placed a small piece of cloth over it, waved his magic wand and took out a hen. All of us were quite stunned to see the trick.

A Pigeon comes out of a magician's Hat

Another masterpiece performed by that magician is still fresh in my memory. He said that once he was travelling in a train without a ticket. To his bad luck the Ticket Inspector suddenly appeared and started checking the passengers for tickets. When finding him without any ticket he asked him to pay the fine plus the amount of the ticket. When he started cutting the challan, the magician begged him for mercy as he was too poor to buy the ticket, but he was refused with a warning that he would be handed over to the police at next railway station. At this the magician took out a small empty box measuring about  2”x3” and showed us how he tricked the Checker; saying, “Sir, here is my ticket”. He took out one real railway ticket. He again took out another ticket and said “Here is the ticket of the man sitting next to me, here is the ticket of both the persons sitting left and right to me, if you are not happy here are the  tickets of all the passengers sitting in this Bogie; and finally here are the tickets of all the passengers travelling by this whole train”. Then to our horror he started taking out the tickets from the apparently empty box one by one and took out innumerable tickets from such a small box in front of us throwing them on the big table lying on the stage. It was really an unforgettable show. TO BE CONTINUED …….

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: nativepakistan@gmail.com


  1. Shahid Salam (Canada) says:

    Thank you Rafique Khan Sahab.
    Taxila has an important place in the history of Indian civilisation. According to the historian Will Durant in his series on ‘Story of Civilization’ it was the seat of the world’s oldest university, over a millennium before Oxford and Cambridge. I read that Alexander too was fascinated by the place and the landscape reminded him of parts of Greece.

    I wonder how many of the artifacts have been pilfered away from the museum?

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Shahid Salam Saheb,
      Thank you sir for your such a nice and encouraging appreciation. It is an open secret that countless items must have been pilfered away by the diggers, staff/management with doubtful integrity; of the Museum. But whatever has been left is also a very big & precious treasury of the nation. May God help save the remainder.
      Thanking you again, sir.

  2. Farooq Ellahi says:

    Dear and Respectable Rafique khan sahib,
    Hope you are enjoying your life and recollecting many more memories to take us to the golden days of remote past where peace and prosperity were prime elements of life. Really your contribution is worth reading and I keep on waiting for new articles from the treasure of your memory. Please keep it up. Wish you healthy and blissful life.
    Thank you once again.
    P.S. My heartiest gratitude is for the Editor who furnished the article with enchanting pictures.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Farooq Elahi Saheb,
      I have to thank you sir, for your gracious appreciation & encouragement to write further in this regard. I regret for the belated reply which was due to some omission beyond my control.
      The Editor, Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema, has been very kind, helpful & cooperative in the compiling of my memoirs. More credit goes to him than I in this regard.
      With the best of my regards & blessings.

  3. Sir,
    Assalamo alaikum.
    Rightly, very nostalgic writing. I can feel myself living in era of the “golden times”. May Allah give you more strength and good health. Please do continue to give the readers – which they wouldn’t find elsewhere.
    Best regards.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Mr. Yamin Khalid,
      Thank you very much sir, for your very gracious appreciation and encouragement. May God bless you.
      With best regards.

  4. Shaheda Rizvi, Canada says:

    Dear Rafique Ahmed Khan Saheb,

    Thank you for sharing, once again, your gracious memoirs, with a memory as sharp as if the events happened just a day ago. Your school trip to Taxila, the Museum, the Stupa sites and the delicious Palak Gousht that followed the excursion. How fortunate that your teacher took time to explain the historical significance of the sites and relics. Although, we toured Taxila Museum, the gardens, the Stupa sites quite often, but their significance and importance in history was a lesson that we missed out on.

    I am wondering whether there is a government body, in Pakistan today, as keen on preserving these relics as the British. Although, I know, even in those times, many art objects sailed over the seas to other parts of the world without being assigned a point of origin, that is, Taxila.

    You wrote: “I still remember the glittering gold and silver jewelry, household articles, old coins, tools & implements used in agriculture, masonry, iron mongering, carpentry, weaponry (arrow heads), etc, well placed on the tables in the rooms”. It reflects that which is in my memory too—Large Buddha statues lying around unguarded—the seated Buddha; the standing Buddhas, the Bodhisatvas, the ones with distinguished Gandhara styles –Glass show cases full of figurines, gold bracelets, utensils of various patterns.

    Oh! all of this takes me back to those good old times, I still love that land which might only exist in my memory.

    I have read that there are many still undug sites near Julian and Mora Moradu. Have you seen those? Were you able to visit Taxila during this visit?

    Again, thank you for sharing your gracious gift and keep writing, dear Rafique Ahmed Khan Shaeb.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Madam,
      Many thanks for your much awaited, valued comments, and generous appreciations. In fact it were the readers like you who infiltrated the courage in me to recollect my memories in this advanced age and convert the same into written text.
      Unfortunately our nation as a whole including the government did not attain the required maturity due to obvious reasons & resources beyond their control, to look after such ancient wealth as per the required standards. Though the present condition thereof is satisfactory; but it needs much more attention to improve the present state of affairs.
      Of course the aforesaid trip to Taxila remains one of the salient scenes of the film of my early life when I see it at times while looking back into my far past. I hope the new generation will come up very soon to revive and maintain our glorious culture.
      Thanking you again and with Blessings.

  5. Albert Dean, Canada says:

    Mr. Rafiq Khan Sahib,
    This is indeed a brilliant article about your school and College days. Its always a pleasure and delight to read your recollections of good old Rawalpindi. The trip to Taxila must have been most enjoyable and exhilarating, because in those days the atmosphere was clear and the countryside was prestine. Such precious memories always refresh ones mind and uplift ones mood.
    Best of regards.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Mr Albert Dean,
      Thank you sir, for your nice and encouraging appreciation. My trip to Taxila was in the Mmid 1930s; and you can not imagine the calm, quiet, and clean atmosphere prevailing during that past time; if we compare it with the present congested, dirty and noisy present time. You have rightly pointed out “Such precious memories always……..” I am undergoing the same state of mind to possess such highly precious memories to keep me cool & refreshed at my this advanced age surrounded by hurry and bustle, uneasiness and uncomfortable environments.
      Thanking you again and with blessings.

  6. U K Madan says:

    Dear Khan Saheb,
    Appreciate your simple yet interesting and informative narrations.
    You live long and continue to do this good work.

  7. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah says:

    Indebted sir, an excellent narration of golden era. Keep it up, sir.
    Best Regards.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah Saheb,
      So kind of you sir, for your valued appreciation & encouragement. With best regards

  8. Brig (R) Asad Hakeem says:

    Rafique Khan Sahib,
    It is an excellent article. Well done, Editor for ‘garnishing’ the article with appropriate photos,.
    I first came to Pindi in 1963 and did go to Wah Gardens for the excursion trips. Its really nice ging through your write ups.

  9. Khalid Hassan says:

    Just a small addition about Taxila Museum.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Khalid Hassan Saheb,
      Thanks for the note sir. I visited the Taxila Museum in 1937 when I was hardly 12 years old.

  10. Sultan Jamshed says:

    Dear Rafique Sb.,
    A very impressive narration of your childhood excursion trips to the world’s ancient localisation of “Budha” era. Every thing is intact nowadays except a good narrator like you. The mMseum is open to the visitors but visitors are very rare. Approaching roads are congested with heavy vehicular movement. The environment of the area is polluted from the nearby cement factory. Let’s pray Taxila again becomes a tourist place.
    In the end prays for your health and well being.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Sultan Jamshed Saheb,
      Obviously when our government fails to have an interest in such “paying back projects” due to being ignorant, incapable or uninterested, we have to suffer the colossal financial loss; whereas we could earn huge foreign currency with proper development of such project to attract the tourists like other developed countries. Its another tragedy with the nation
      Thanking you very much Sir for your such good sentiments for me, May God Bless you.

  11. Dear Rafique Sahib,

    Thank you for this nice article.

    I want to take you back in pre-Partition period, you may recall the old memories of Banni Chowk where there was a pond of Banni Mai Weero, which you discussed in your previous articles.

    I lived in first street in Banni Chowk and from my uncle’s house I can view Banni Chowk easily, my question is that:

    Who lived in that house, the people who lived in that house during 1947 or before I want to know about them because I am so attached with this house and I spent my childhood there?

    That house is in center of street when you turn left after crossing Banni Chowk, and after turning left you are on the road which goes to Muslim School and Said Puri Gate, on this road first street on left hand has this house in the middle.

    This house has a big door and stairs are there before entering in to the gate, you cross the verandah and then there is big compound in the center, and around this space on four corners there were rooms, and two stairs go to upper floor. These stairs are opposite to each other, and on first floor there is a long row of rooms on street side and on Banni Chowk side there is a big compound, I remember only this.

    This is again test of your great memory.


    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Imran Bhatti Saheb,
      I have just a faint idea of this location now; but if you could advise me whether you know late Sqn Leader Ch. Ramzan Ali who lived in the same location?

  12. Dear Khan Sb,
    Asslamu Alaikum,
    Very interesting and absorbing narration as always; congrats. It’s nostalgic too for I recalled our College visit of Taxila Museum back in 1965. In fact I often pass by the Museum on my way to our village near Khanpur Dam. The masonry work of the famous Bhamala Stupa there, named after our village, puts the present day houses around to shame.
    I now live in DHA Phase 1 near the old Swan Camp which is history now.
    Best regards,

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Maj Gen Parvez Akmal,
      Incidentally I returned to Dubai today after paying a casual visit to Pindi for a couple of days; and I stayed in Bahria Town adjacent to DHA Phase 1. As I remember you sir due to your kind interest in reading my articles, I was over whelmed to see your name plate on one Villa, while on way to my residence. I could have knocked on your door to pay you my respect, but as I was in extremely hurried visit I just could not do it. It was surely bad luck for me.
      Thanking you sir, for your interest in reading my articles and giving valued appreciations. The old Swan Camp during my early life used to be infamous Wild West with almost no population. In 1943, I being a Gordonian visited the Swan Camp on our College Founders’ Day. I still remember that wonderful day.
      Thanking you again sir, for appreciating my article.
      With Blessings.

  13. Sir,
    I read your articles very often and find them very interesting. I would love if you can put up old pictures of Rawalpindi with there titles. Thank you.

  14. Yousuf Ibnul Hasan says:

    Beyond any doubt the writer is above the board and the way and words that he put in the article created a visual effect in the readers mind that demand “Let us see Rawalpindi, a heaven on earth”.
    The city have number of education institutions, ancient and modern but the information on them is not been collected and the effort of the writer is a step to make reader aware that the city was never been the city of orthodox and ignorant and Islamabad site nominated for capital city was not the wrong decision, but to make a capital of country the way it should be a pride of nation. Rawalpindi is the route to this Capital of a country that stand as Pakistan on the world map.
    My school was Presentation Convent Rawalpindi that has a history which also need to be unearthed and the personalities, specially the women of today who passed from this college are not unknown. I as child studied in this school and passed my 4th class, but the four year of my stay in the school remind me my golden memories.
    After exactly 36 years in 1997 I met a person who was my class fellow in 1959-60 in the same school and it took me less then 20 seconds to recognize him. He was Khalid Rehman, ex Chairman Pakistan Petroleum Limited. He did not, but made him surprise that we are from Presentation Convent Rawalpindi.
    I pray for my birth place and I request everyone to pray for me to keep praying for Rawalpindi

    • Yousuf Ibnul Hasan Sahab,
      Beyond doubt the writer’s pen is fluid and re-creates the aura of those times. I can tell you one thing, Pindi Waals even next generations, like me born elsewhere than their Pindi parents yearn all the time for their Rawalpindi ..such is the pull of this city. All the best.

      • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

        Dear M/S Yousaf Ibnul Hassan & Indian Pilgrimgsa,
        I have to thank you Sirs, for your such nice & encouraging appreciation for me. Such precious memories are priceless assets of one’s past and act as a healing balm on the ever ailing thorny and restless present.
        Thanking you again & with blessing.s

  15. Almas Tirmizi says:

    Very nostalgic and sweet piece of writing! It reminds me of the late 60s and 70s when visiting the Museums was a must whenever we visited Lahore, Peshawar or Karachi. Our father Syed Mustanir Ahmed Tirmizi took us to the Museums on our every trip to the major cities.
    Visiting Taxila ruins and the Museum was a regular feature of our holiday season. We as little children loved collecting little insignificant beads and coins from the ruins. And the Taxila Museum had an awesome collection of the relics of the past. Unfortunately every thing has been stolen and smuggled out and when I took my own children to the Peshawar Museum in the 90s, there was hardly anything worth seeing and same was the case with the Taxila Museum!!! It’s so unfortunate that nations all over the world preserve and display their historical artifacts with pride, whereas we stole, smuggled and sold off ours!

    • Rafique Ahmed khan says:

      Dear Madam,
      Thank you for appreciation. You must also be appreciating to remember your early past which looks so charming. It looks so wonderful to accompany your father to such interesting places, especially when he explained so fully all the details in simple understandable language according to our age. You are quite right to mention with regards to the missing of an appreciable number of items from the museums. It is really unfortunate state of affaires which could have easily be avoided with right safety actions taken by the concerned.
      With blessings.

  16. Dear Rafique Sahib,
    A wonderful article about extra curricular activities of schools and colleges before the Partition.
    Hope you will like the photos added by me to ‘garnish’ your article!! :)

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Sir,
      I have to thank you for decorating the articles with your very appropriate and rare photos to look the articles look so attractive and worth reading with more interest. All the credit goes to you.
      Incidentally I had to visit Pindi but only for a couple of days on a very urgent private affaire. I could not even see my own property for lack of time.
      Thanking you again, Sir.

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