“My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 5)

By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai

Rafique Ahmed Khan

Rafique Ahmed Khan

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 4…

This episode may interestingly refresh the memories of the members of the public who knew/heard the popular persons being remembered in this article; but who may have faded in the history otherwise.

During pre Partition days some persons from the low-level segment of the population used to become well-known personalities, due to their being highly experienced/skilled in their trade like Mid-wives (DAEES), Barbers (NAEES), Compounders etc., or other types of such professions, mainly due to their extraordinary public relations, and with humble but pleasant behavior.

Mirzoo Daee (mid-wife)In the City area there were two such “Daees” who were equally liked by all the Muslim/non-Muslim population. One was Mirzo Daee who was No.1 in the popularity mostly in Hindu/Sikh population. Due to being highly skilled and popular, she was very expensive and would charge exorbitantly from the expectant ladies. Neither she preferred Muslim cases nor the common Muslims would afford to call her for deliveries. She was also mostly consulted (in confidence) for the suitable matches for the unmarried boys/girls. In successful cases what an enormous amount of cash, gold ornaments and costly clothes were given to her by Hindu/Sikh gentries. Eventually she became so rich and important personality that she could be hired only after prior appointments. In late 1940s, she got a phone connection to add to her status. More than half of Hindus/Sikhs from 1920s till Partition of India were delivered by herself and her staff.

Safo Daee (mid-wife)The other Daee was by the name Sappho. She was favorite among the middle and low classes. She had a better temperament than Mirzo. She remained smiling always and pleasant to talk to. She was easily available all the times even at nights also. She never asked herself for any fee and accepted whatever she was given by the clients, who would give her the best they could afford. I still remember when she bought a HMV gramophone for Rs. 95 on installments @ Rs.5 per month from the dealers in Raja Bazaar. How proud she used to feel about this modern asset, and mentioned about it always when in some company. During the pre Partition days only these type of midwives were engaged and it was very seldom that hospitals were used for child-birth cases.

Road-side Barber

Road-side Barber (Not Nathoo).

Nathoo Naee (Barber)There was a barber who became very famous in healing the wounds. He became so highly experienced/specialized that the doctors stopped treating/attending the wounds and started referring cases of all types of ordinary and complicated wounds to this barber called Nathoo Nai. In the beginning he used to do his job on the roadside on the Jamia Masjid Road along with other numerous barbers; but later opened his own shop on the same road. When his practice improved and a huge rush started gathering in his shop, he stopped doing as barber and started only attending to the wounds. He placed a sign board on his shop with the wording “HAKIM MIAN NATHOO KHAN JARRAH (SURGEON)”,and started practice in “Hikmat” also. After performing haj the small board was replaced with a much bigger in size and with the words as Hakim Haji Mian Nathoo Khan Jarrah. Due to his successful practice of treating the chronic wounds, his clinic started gathering such huge rush that he put all his sons to assist him. He also became a very rich person and obtained a high position in the public.

Hakim Haji Mian Nathoo Khan Jarrah

At the same Jamia Masjid Road there used to be a doctor by the name of Dr. Mehmood Ali Khan. Before Partition, he had a very insignificant practice due to a large number of Hindu/Sikh doctors who were running very successful practice. But after the departure of non-Muslim doctors, his practice gathered big momentum and soon he constructed his own big clinic at Pull Shah Nazar. He had one Compounder by the name of Mohammad Din who gained so much knowledge of medicines that he used to run the clinic in the absence of the doctor. It happened daily that after the doctor left the clinic after being off; Mr. Mohammad Din started his own practice, charging his patients/customers and keeping all the cash for himself. The Doctor was in knowledge of this malpractice of his Compounder; but he could or did not stop this practice due to the fact that Mohammad Din had become a sort of indispensable: and the leakage of his income was just a negligent fraction. With the passage of time Mohammad Din had become a full fledged fake doctor with huge number of his own patients. After the death of Dr. Mehmood Ali Khan, Mohammad Din opened his own clinic with a clientage not less than any well established doctor. In the meanwhile his son did his MBBS and became a doctor. TO BE CONTINUED……………….

Related Pages:
My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 1)
My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 2) 
My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 3)
My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 4)
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi 

Rawalpindi Blog 

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If it is not inconvenient, please do write a brief comment at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”. 
Visitors of this website are welcome to contribute their nostalgic articles about Rawalpindi by sending to: rashid.cheema11@gmail.com


  1. Gurpreet Singh Anand says:

    Respected Rafiq khan Sahab,

    Each of your article transports me to the Pindi of yore my forefathers came from and I through your articles seem to relive those moments ..despite being born in Delhi!

    It says how honest your words are and they convey such a warmth …God Bless You!

    Reading about Avaston …In 2011 after having been treated by laser on left eye, since 2010, one day I reached China after a flight from Delhi and suddenly I felt my right eye had some issue ..some vision was disturbed ..I took flight back the same day and showed next morning to my treating doctor who told me to protect my right eye I had to be treated by an injection Avaston. They gave me a pamphlet with signatures to be given on to give my accent and absolve the treating doctors for any eventuality. I did everything, deposited the money and was admitted to the clinic, one of the legendary eye clinics for nearly a century with several generations of the family in ophthalmology. I came home after treatment and then in 10 days time at night I suffered a paralytic stroke on the same right side ..when I went to the clinic for admission at night they tested my BP and Sugar levels both were normal. My wife researched and found one of the likely causes / after effects of Avaston was sudden increase in blood pressure and likely cause of Stroke.

    Few months later I confronted the treating doctor and he admitted we cannot be sure but it is possible the injection may have led to the stroke. With assiduous family and physiotherapy assistance I am recovered 80% now …all this I am writing to you to be aware and then decide. Yes, one thing more, Avaston is much cheaper in India than in Dubai …you can think over and your wife be treated here. .

    • My Dear Gurpreet Singh Anand Ji SSA
      Very many thanks for your sympathies, and appreciation.
      It is true that best & most economical medical treatment is always available in India as well as in Pakistan. The cost of Avaston in Pakistan also is just a fraction of the amount of what it is in Dubai. But the question remains on the post operation Hygiene/care in the hospitals plus the fake/defective medicines in both the countries. You may be a victim of this shortcoming. Again we have to face the luck/fate also; if something must happen it does happen. You must be knowing the famous proverb “Man proposes, God Disposes”. Please do not lose hope and have a firm belief in Him being the Only Hope and Fate.
      With best regard.s

  2. Shaheda Rizvi, Canada says:

    Hon. Rafique Khan Sahib,

    Thank you so much for another unique glimpse of Pindi history. Dai(s) and Nai(s) were especially marvelous in the Pindi area. I recall a Nai who visited our house every month, and the entire family (excluding women and girls) lined up for a hair-cut; scalp massage; hair style (English cut) etc. A pleasant day for all who participated in this ritual. Never experienced those sweet Nais after leaving Pindi. And same goes for Doctors from the Railway Hospital.

    Re: Absolutely right point by Col Zafar Mustafa: Medicine, tests, rates, various X-rays, ct-scans, ultra-sounds, blood tests etc., I think it’s a global phenomena–especially the Western Medicine Practice. A five minute consultation without any clue as to what is wrong with you, then off to various scanning machines and blood tests, for unimaginable sum of money, then off to a new doc to read the results produced by various scanners and still no clue of what is ailing one and how to treat it. You leave the medical office more confused than when you went in. I feel this is what we mean by Machine taking over Man’s imagination and thinking.

    My prayers and thoughts are with your wife and may you find a remedy and may she recover ASAP. You wrote: “The only treatment in the world is an injection called Avaston.” Have you looked into Traditional Chinese Medicine for her? I was at a Chinese Clinic today and overheard the practitioner treat someone for eye-ailment. Just a thought.

    • Dear Madam,
      Many thanks for your valued comments. Now when the situation has become unavoidable we have to endure it patiently till nature turns its course for betterment. All the alternative treatments are very rare, & inaccessible making it rather impossible to obtain normally. Hence one has to approach the available treatment/aid at the counter. One does not have the time, resources and easy availability of such treatment which also is a lengthy process if adopted. Accordingly we have to choose the lesser evil.

      Thanking you again for your gracious feelings for my dear wife whom I married in 1948; and up till now we are having the same happy, affectionate life with warm passionate feelings for each other.

      With best regards.

  3. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah says:

    Dear Sir,
    A very good read as I requested you earlier please compile your memories and shape them in a book form, suggested title of book is “PINDI NAAMA”. Wish you a very prosperous and sound health.
    Best Regards,

  4. Lt Col (R) Zafar Mustafa says:

    Dear Rafique Ahmed Khan Sahib,
    Very well written account of Pre-partition Rawalpindi’s un-qualified but proficient and skilled medical practitioners who served the middle and lower middle classes quite efficiently. If you allow me the digression, situation in pre-partition Lahore was exactly the same. Our family doctor, an MBBS, charged Rs 2 for a visit and when we went to collect the medicines from his dispensary (run by a person who was the only one who could decipher Doctor’s writing) the charges were in annas. No patent medicines were ever prescribed. Even the Jarrah in our locality could heal all sorts of wounds.

    These days there is a proliferation of quacks in poor localities of every city and town but they are no match to the people described by you.

    About Doctors, when I moved to Karachi in 1987, the specialist doctors charged Rs 500 for a visit to their clinic. The other day I visited a specialist in Agha Khan Hospital who charged me Rs 1,960 (BATA Shoe Rates ) for a 5 minute consultation, and wrote down a few “tests” costing Rs. 6,000 and prescribed patent medicines worth Rs. 4,947 that I have to consume in 6 weeks before the second visit.

    Please keep us tagged to the golden past. Wish you the best of health and happiness.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Col Zafar Mustafa Sahib,
      Thank you sir, for writing your experience with the “Modern” doctors. My wife is suffering from ARMD an eye problem in old age. The only treatment in the world is an injection called Avaston. The cost is UAE dhs 2000/- (1 dh equal to about Rs. 30/-) -for one procedure (Visit). She had received 25 such injections in the last two years. In addition her knees were replaced 5-6 years back. The cost was UAE dhs 200000/-. And this is just one drop of what we are undergoing various treatments.
      You will surely, sir, develop a deep sympathy for a 90 years old pensioner like me. May God bless us all, it is believed that when He puts us in problems, He grants us with solutions also. At least I am existing with this belief of mine.
      Kindly do read next episode of my article. Thanking you & with best regards.

      • Lt Col (R) Zafar Mustafa says:

        Dear Rafique Ahmed Khan Sahib
        I fully endorse your views on Allah’s benevolence . Approaching my 80th birthday, I
        firmly believe that each new day of my life has been better than the one which flew-by almost un-noticed. We can hardly be grateful enough for HIS mercies.
        I fervently pray for the recovery of your respected wife.
        Eagerly awaiting for the next episode and wishing you both a healthy and happy life.
        Best regards.

  5. Major (R) Munir Ahmed ( 2nd SSC) says:

    Dear Rafique Sahib,
    Once again thank you so much for an absorbing article. Revival of such past memories can only be done by a man with terrific memory plus art of penning it down & Allah has blessed you with both the qualities in plenty. I am from Lahore & this city has much more rich history as compared to Rawalpindi but the big lacking factor is, we do not have Rafique Saheb. I wish you were from Lahore. Eagerly waiting for the next article.

    • Dear Major Munir Ahmed Sahib,
      Many thanks for your valued comments. I lived in Lahore in 1949 while working in the Military Farms; living in their official residence in Saddar. You may remember an old saying “Lahore is Lahore & no one is born when one has not seen Lahore”. It has been a Royal City & of course the Lahorites are Royal Hearted people.

  6. Brig (R) Aslam Khan (33 PMA) says:

    Dear Rafique Sahib,

    You are doing an immortal favour to the Pindites including myself and my family members. My father was an officer in Army Medical Corps. Therefore, in the initial 5 years of my life I was moving with him as a child, on his postings. However, in 1949 my father decided to settle the family permanently in Pindi so that the education of my siblings and myself did not suffer and continuity in the same school was maintained, viz, St Mary’s Cambridge School, Murree Road. After my retirement too, I have settled in Pindi (at 304 Peshawar Rd, Rawalpindi Cantt).

    Therefore, it is immensely important – almost sacred – for me to read your reminisces which are extremely interesting and engaging. And one must salute to your graphic memory.

    Bravo Rafique Sahib, bravo!

    May Allah shower His choicest blessings on you and grant you a long healthy life as well as the strength to keep posting more Pindi Memoirs for the nostalgic, infinite joy of those in whose hearts Pindi resounds as well as for our matchless city’s posterity.

    It will be my honour to host you. So please come and stay with me whenever you can visit your ancestral town. Also please tell me if I can be of any service here.

    Again, God bless you and thank you, Sir.

    With kind regards,

    • Dear Brig Aslam Khan Sahib,
      Many thanks for your esteemed and highly valued comments. Interestingly my Son Suhail also studied in St. Mary’s during Father Burn’s times. Suddenly I had to take him to Karachi on my transfer. After a few years when I was transferred back to Pindi; I expected his readmission to St. Mary’s may became a big problem there being no seat in his class. To solve this problem I went and saw the Parish of Karachi apparently to congratulate him on his promotion to become Cardinal. After the audience I requested to leave, he just asked for any service as a matter of courtesy (as expected) I made the best use of this moment and humbly requested him to grant a letter of recommendation addressed to Father Grant for the admission of my son in St. Mary’s School in Pindi. As he was in a happy mood, he smiled and granted me the necessary letter. Thus my son (who is now a Vice President in the Emirates Airlines) got his readmission in St. Mary’s.

      Kindly do pay me a visit/stay with me on your visit to Dubai which is “worth” seeing these days due to its ultra modernization superseding any advanced city in the world.

      Waiting to be remembered for any service for me at Dubai; and wishing you to be in the best of your everything.

  7. Azam Gill, France says:

    Thank you once again, Rafique Khan Sahib,
    May your penmanship flourish to the advantage of your readers.

  8. Maj Gen (R) Parvez Akmal says:

    Very interesting narrations; thank you so much Rafique Sahib. Looking forward to more.
    Prayers and best regards.

  9. Col Arshad Nazir Faridi Chishty says:

    Well done Mr. Rafique. My father was a senior doctor in Civil Hospital, Raja bazaar, Rawalpindi in 1950. I was in class 3 and attending Mission High School. Perhaps I remember some echos surrounding my ears about it but I cannot distinctly remember the details. Although I am a Sialkoti but I was in Rawalpindi with my father then. kindly do scratch some stories of this kind. The story about the Compounder has been repeated in many cities where my father was posted. A doctor in Sialkot having got involved in politics was abandoned by his Compounder who had also opened his own clinic. His degree was challenged by the doctor but the Compounder won. Today his sons are doctors and he is running a very good hospital.

    Nearly in every city there are quack doctors whose practice is flourishing; more particularly in the villages where there is extreme poverty. Because the farmers do not make any profit from their crops, therefore they have no buying power. The village Basic health Units are indifferent and therefore the quacks are flourishing. I was a part of my father’s duty to keep a check on such quacks. Those days the practicing doctors were not so rich to blind the policemen with with wads of currency notes. My father really remained at logger’s heads with the practitioners. That is why he did not leave even a house for his children.

    • Dear Col Arshad Nazir Faridi Chishty Sahib,

      During the past, the Doctors were truly dedicated to their profession; and serving mankind in true professional service without any greed. They were paid back with due respect and regards. Doctors were considered to be one of the most respectable persons in the society. The fee for an MBBS doctor was only rupees two for home visit; and no fee for any treatment in the clinics. Only the cost of medicine @ three annas per single dose was charged. Normally three doses of any mixture, and three small packets of any powder were administered per day. And the patients were cured in small time. No patent medicine was prescribed normally. These days one feels dreaded at the very look of a doctor who is visited under the most unavoidable situation. It is very famous that the patients are “sold” by one doctor to the other doctor under the guise of specialist consultancy. Doctors these days are one of the richest element of the society.

      You are not the only gentleman, sir, to have such type of experience/feelings.

      May God Bless you and make you feel most contended/satisfied with what your honorable and illustrious father has left for you i.e., peacefulness and satisfaction at heart.

      Post Script: You wrote your father was working in Civil Hospital Pindi during 1950s. As I may know your father, kindly write his full name to oblige me.

  10. Well done Rafique Sahib. Waiting for the 6th installment from your magical pen.

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