By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai
Editor’s Note: The writer was born and brought up in Rawalpindi. He studied in Denny’s High School, Mission High School and Gordon College. He worked as a Consultant in Provisioning & Stock Control and Logistics in various Organisations. Finally retired from PIA and now lives in Dubai. He is writing a series of articles about the life in Rawalpindi during 1930s, 40s and 50s.
Continued from Part 1……
The old areas both in City & Cantonment have become highly congested, commercialized and over populous due to rapid increase in population. But prior to Partition the shops were located only on the wide roads and bazaars; and the residential areas were so peaceful and quiet.
Some localities like Banni Mai Veero, Raja Bazaar, Chitian Hatiyaan, Boharh Bazaar, Teli Mohallah, Sarafa Bazar, Moti Bazaar, etc. were in centuries old buildings which were worth seeing and enjoying. Banni Mai Veero was an ancient huge water pool built by a Hindu lady Mai Veero, where people used to bathe, swim and refresh. It was a sort of picnic spot for the public in the very heart of the city. But now our greedy authorities have constructed shops and converted it into a bazaar. Adjacent to it was a “Tonga Stand” of a horse driven two wheeler four seated comfortable carts the only means of transport in the city. It was an attractive stand with waiting beautifully coloured/polished tongas with healthy horses; which were periodically inspected by the Municipal Veterinary doctors. There used to be a British Lady (who was called “Berehmi wali meim” (merciless lady); and was dreaded by the “Kochwans” (the Toga drivers) as she used to surprise check on the roads to inspect any wound or injury to the horses, and would shoot the injured horse at the spot. The “Tongas” also have vanished with the abolishing of the same in the city and replaced by taxis and auto rickshaws which have further added to the huge traffic congestion and pollution.
In Bohar Bazaar all the chemists shops were located, both whole sellers as well as the retailers doing business. Once I went to the Shamsi Chemists shop in 1950s, he was writing a letter to his mother. When he wrote the word “Walda” (Mother), the ink in his fountain pen exhausted and he could only complete the half word. While he was filling his pen, suddenly a Postman dropped in the shop and delivered a telegram to him. Immediately Mr. Shamsi collapsed on the chair while reading the telegram, which carried the news of the death of his mother. It was a strange and sad unforgettable incident in my life. His dying mother contacted him “spiritually” before the message came.
There were mainly two roads which connected the city area with the Cantonment also called Saddar. One was City Saddar Road which was the shortest and the Tonga Walas used to charge only two paisas (one rupee was equal to 64 paisas) per person. The other route was Murree Road which was longer but better route with a very little traffic. Almost entire Murree Road existed in a residential area, whereas the City Saddar Road existed in commercial area. Though the vacuum created during the Partition by the departure of Hindu/Sikh emigrants was filled by the influx of Mohajars from East Punjab mainly; the population grew so fast thereafter that the existing areas became excessively congested. The need to meet the uncontrollable growing population became unavoidable; and the city started witnessing excessive and ill planned construction of the houses in the heart of city, which caused the complete vanishing of existing breathing places like gardens and playgrounds.
During late 50s and early 60s, Gen. Ayub Khan started the construction of Satellite Town and the city of Islamabad. The situation started becoming easy but an extensive damage had already been done by the greedy corrupt authorities while converting the gardens and playgrounds into housing schemes.
In the meanwhile the capital of Pakistan was shifted from Karachi to Islamabad during early 60s. I still remember the day the first train arrived at Chaklala Railway Station during an afternoon in almost a very cloudy and freezing weather. I still remember when the staff of Capital Secretariats, mostly Urdu speaking, landed at the platform, they started shivering to their bones. They were dressed in only ordinary sweaters or “Banddees” (waistcoats made of quilts), and were rubbing both the hands to get some warmth, but in vain. The welcoming Administration had arranged for hot tea for the “guests” who jumped for the tea and started gushing the boiling hot tea in their throats, holding the glasses with both hands. As their trembling started beyond their control, they were hurriedly transported to their already allotted quarters in beautifully planned Islamabad. Subsequently most of the staff fell sick with cold related problems, and became a headache for the Administration for their odd types of demands for their personal comforts. In Karachi they felt better weather wise and financially also where they were doing illegally additional jobs other than their Government duty. Eventually most of such staff left and went back to Karachi. To be continued………………..
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