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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …….
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