“My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 6)

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 5 ………..

A Brass Band Studio

A Brass Band Studio.

As for the amusements, and entertainments during happy functions there used to be two Musical Bands in the city area, which were hired on the marriages and other occasions. One was equipped with a better quality musical instruments; owned by one Master Hussain. His troupe’ contained the full set of brass musical instruments with large numbers of musicians. His “Studio” existed at the beginning of “QASAYEE GALLI”, a high class Brothel wherein only the singing girls used to perform. The name board “STAR OF INDIA BAND” was visible prominently hanging on the front wall of the corner building in the famous RAJA BAZAAR. The musical sound of the band could be heard almost all the day, when the musicians used to practice on the new tunes. After playing the Indian tunes, English tunes (NEVER ON A SUNDAY, RULE BRITANIA. & SEE THE CONQUERING HERO COMES etc.,) were also played on request by the audience. The Head of the Band used to Conduct the band playing on the clarinet while the team played on Brass Instruments and different types of Drums. On the marriage and other functions, the Band was hired on fixed fee plus the “WAILS” (Coins and Currency notes thrown over the gatherings by the public). Such amount often far exceeded the fixed rates.

Very interestingly during the marriage seasons or on other such events when the demand could not be met due to shortage of musicians; common labourers were used in the band with the uniforms; who would act the same rather better way as if they were actually playing the instruments. This type of cheating was quite common during rush of the demands.

Brass Band Studios in Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi.

Brass Band ‘Studios’ in Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi.

A street resembling Qasayee Gali.

A street resembling Qasayee Gali.

The “Qasayee Galli” was a brothel in the heart of city in a side street of Raja Bazaar a famous shopping centre. Apparently it was said that only the singing girls were allowed to perform during the nights. During the days the street looked quite deserted with very little activities. But throughout the nights the street was quite active. In almost all the buildings in the street there were coming the sounds of music, singing and dancing . The shows stopped at dawn; when the “guests” started going home staggering quite drunk. A large number of “tongas” used to wait outside the street to take them to their destinations.

There was another brothel on the Westridge Road immediately after “LEH” bridge outside “RATTA AMRAL” colony. This area also was active and jubilant during the nights and deserted during the days. During the British Raj a strict medical check was carried out regularly; and strict administrative vigil was kept by the police to keep the area trouble free. After the Partition, the Pakistan Government totally banned the prostitution. But in fact this order did/could not kill the actual purpose of clearing the vice in the public; when all the prostitutes infiltrated in to other localities, and started their work individually under cover. In fact the prostitution flourished due to wrong policy with ineffective implementation of orders in this respect. In addition the malpractice was being patronized by the corrupt authorities.



Another entertainment on marriages and child births was the dancing/singing by the eunuchs. They used to go to the Municipality daily to find of any birth in the city; and there from go to the house where any birth had taken place. During 1930s their “Guru” was “BAKHASH KHUSRA” who controlled the group. He was an old but handsomely fair coloured person. He was very sober, quiet and maintained his dignity. He used to wear costly clothes with heavy gold bangles “KARHAS” and wore “Saleem Shahi” footwear embroidered with gold thread (ZARI). After his death another Guru by the name of Akhtar took over who continued for a very long time.

In addition to the above, on the marriages, births and other such happy occasions, another set of entertainers used to entertain the gatherings. They were called “Dooms/mirasees/nuts”. These type of entertainers were mostly busy in the villages where they were paid in kind and not cash. On each crop they were given their share regularly. These type of entertainers used to perform comedies/jokes (called Naqal, Jugat), and/or imitate the local gentry in such a way that created humor without any offence to the person being copied.

There was another sect of persons called “Raws” who used to learn/remember the entire ancestries of the gentries. When asked to narrate, they used to stand on one leg and start narrating the names of fathers/grandfathers/great grandfathers/great great grandfathers and in many cases they used to go on naming the 10/15 generations in one go. Regretfully they are instinct now and we have lost this marvelous group of such highly skilled people in this profession; who used to keep the correct record of ancestries of people verbally.

Cloth Merchant

Cloth Merchant.

During 1940s and before a lot of merchandise was sold by the street vendors. The cloth sellers carrying the metallic yard-stick in their hands, used to hire one or two labourers who carried the huge bundles containing cloth rolls used to pass through the streets announcing in loud voice about the merchandise being offered for sale. The labourers were mostly Kashmiries who used to come to Pindi during the winter season to escape from severe cold/snow in Kashmir; and were preferred being very tough to carry extra heavy loads. It was fun watching the lengthy bargaining between the lady buyers and the smart and experienced vendors who knew the human psychology of the ladies and always asked for double the price which was settled though to the satisfaction of the ladies, but who in fact were the actual losers.

Bakery Items

Bakery items.

Similarly the bakery items were also sold in big tin boxes by the vendors. These vendors were mostly from Murree Hills, who used to be very polite and respectful. Two bakeries were very famous; Broadway Bakery and Crown Bakery. The owner of Broad Bakery (Mr. Rashid) was a Palmist also and was very popular among high gentry especially the ladies.

Vegetable Rehri

Vegetable Rehri.

In addition fruits were also sold in the streets; and thus many items of daily use were available at the door steps easily.  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)
My Old But Ever New Pindi (Part 5)
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi 

Rawalpindi Blog 

Editor’s Note: If you have liked this page, then please share it on FacebookTwitter or any other social media.
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. Major (R) Munir Ahmed (2nd SS ) says:

    Dear Rafique Saheb,
    As ever, a fantastic write up. It is really heartening to revive our rich culture & heritage which not only has been completely forgotten but has also been replaced with new. A great service & a magnificent job being done by you. Keep it up.
    May Allah bless you with perfect health (Aameen).

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Major Munir,
      Many thanks sir, for your kind appreciation & encouragement. May Allah bless you with the best of every thing also. Aameen.

  2. Brig (R) Aslam Khan, 33 PMA says:

    Revered Rafique Sahib,
    Your dedication and sense of personal commitment is exemplary and harbinger for us all. Not only do you take pains to write about our Pindi but take time to respond individually to each comment. It is amazing. May Allah Almighty give us the strength to follow your example and may He in His infinite graciousness carry you in the palm of His hand. Ameen and thanks again.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Brig Aslam Khan,

      I have been left speechless to read your extraordinary and wonderful appreciation. May God bless you with the best of every thing. At this advanced age my condition is just like the passenger waiting happily for the train to come. I pray for all to live happily & successfully like me.

      While thanking you for your well wishes for me, I would not wish you amongst Joys only which like roses lose their charm & beauty within few brief hours; but amongst successful, prosperous and long lives.
      Thanking you again.

  3. Maj Gen (R) Parvez Akmal, Engrs (42 PMA) says:

    Dear Rafique Sahib,

    Thanks for another wonderful account; from eunuchs to mirasis and dancers to whores, it’s a candid description of a domain turned taboo by hypocrites. Ever since this oldest profession has found roots in posh areas and ‘shurafa’ streets.

    I also read Shaheda Rizvi Sahiba’s touching story ‘Sorrows of Pastry Man’ and recalled an old guy who would cycle Lal Kurti and Saddar selling roasted ‘channas’ in raddee paper cones, inviting children’s attention with his husky call, “Baboo mein laya mazedar; Channa Jore Garam”. Any one remember him doing those rounds in 50s and 60s? The roasted corns and channas sold by Pathans are also very delicious; don’t ask how I quietly park my car by their carts some times and pick a few hot n’ salty packs!!

    Best regards.

    • Brig (R) Aslam Khan, 33 PMA says:

      Dear Gen Parvez Akmal,

      Yes, the ‘Channa Jore’ cycle man used to be found in the evenings on Bank Road as well. I remember part of his rant as ” Channa Jore Garam Baboo, Mein Laya Mazedar Channa Jore Garam. Isko Khai Madhu Bhala, Nimmi Bhagi Tor Tala, Jhotay Ka Ho Moo Kala, Channa Jore Garam!”

      1948 onward, I lived on Peshawar Road close to Charing Cross. Egg Sellers from nearby villagers (from Chor, Misrial, etc.) had jute bags specially cut and stitched to fit in between the triangular frame below the seats of their bicycles. In these bags they carried eggs to sell from house to house. I remember the price @ 4 Annas per dozen. For purchase of 2 dozen at a time, he gave one egg extra as Choonga in winters and two eggs Choonga in summers because most people had no refrigerators at that time.

      I also remember that in 1950 my father’s batman bought for us two healthy lambs (Dumbaas) for Qurbani from Chakra (near Chor) for Rs. 24, ie Rs 12 per lamb! Agreed that money had a lot more value, but even so, my father did not feel the pinch of cost and said that the price was really cheap/affordable. His pay then as a senior Major was around Rs 750 pm. We never felt the financial crunch.

    • Rafique Ahmed khan says:

      Dear Maj Gen Parvez Akmal,
      So kind of you for your appreciation and encouragement. Sir its not only you but so many other high dignitaries who appreciate such delicacies, can’t help sneaking near such vendors, hurriedly obtain the item and start enjoying it in their cars parked at a distance. The taste of such delicacies are far better than the ones presented in the five star hotels.

      Madam Shaheda Rizvi writes highly interesting and heart touching episodes which are worth reading.

  4. Raja Tariq says:

    Old memories are always your best friend.

  5. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah says:

    It is ‘PINDI NAAMA’ at its best. We are slowly and steadily getting close to arrange all the parts to be shaped it in book form. Title has already been suggested by me. Many thanks, it is wonderful. Stay Blessed.

  6. Lt Col (R) Zafar Mustafa says:

    Sir, enjoyable account of places and people. Masha Allah, you possess photogenic memory. God bless.

  7. Zahir Khan says:

    Rafique Sahib,
    You forgot about the “Phaands” or “Bhaands’ with one of them holding a leather strip and would hit the other after every joke, especially if the joke did not go well with the audience usually at marriage ceremonies.

    One more thing. It was usually ‘kak pastry’ and not cake pastry with the bakers carrying the whole bakery in a trunk. It was unbelievable how they would bring out so many yummy items out of one trunk carried on their heads. This is a long trip down memory lane.
    Thanks a lot.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Zahir Khan Sahib,
      I wrote “Dooms/Mirasis/Nuts” meaning ‘Bhands’. Anyway thank your for valuable addition, and appreciation.

  8. Shaheda Rizvi, Canada says:

    Hon. Rafique Sahib,

    I loved reading episode 6 as much as all the rest. This episode touched many heart-strings, two main ones being: Bakeries + pastry vendors and cloth vendors from Kashmir. We had a most adorable pastry-wala, just as you described: polite, honorable, courteous, highly educated (I am sure) who visited our house in the Westridge area, and those pastries and his life, now sit on one of my top memory-shelves. It’s titled “Rawalpindi – Sorrows of a Pastry Man” (true story)— If you get a chance please take a few minutes to read that, and let me know whether that character fits one of those you too might have known.


    • RafiqueAhmed Khan says:

      Dear Madam,
      Thank you for your post. I have already read your exhaustive nostalgic article regarding the pastry vendor. It was a really tragic heart touching story penned down by you in such classical academics that the characters move like a movie film. It is really a commendable literary work done by you which will remain alive in times to come.

  9. Lt Gen (R) M.Kamal Akbar says:

    Very enjoyable as usual. I lived in the house next to Denny’s High School and was at Gordon College (1953 to 1955).

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Gen Kamal Akbar,
      Many thanks sir, for your kind message. I studied in the Denny’s High School (1931-35) and in Gordon College (1941-44) during in their best of every thing. Then their standard was very high which declined afterwards.
      I remember a Parsi family used to live in the house next to the school during that period.

  10. Good narration of Pindi – a city in which I am an alien (since Lahore always remains to be my city for life). However, I wrote about Raja Bazaar once and for Pindites this may have some nostalgic reading.
    Read my post here: http://www.jahojalal.com/2012/02/bazaars-of-pakistan-raja-bazaar.html

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Jalal HB Sahib,
      Thank you sir for your appreciation. I have already read your very exhaustive nostalgic article regarding the bazaars. The state of congestion as narrated by you was quite the opposite during twenties thirties, when there was no motor transport and every one was on one’s feet.. There was no rush of people also and only small number of shoppers/visitors were found on the roads. There were no ladies to be seen in the bazaars, especially the Muslims who could not move without an escort. only a handful of non Muslim ladies used to come out. The Raja Bazaar was the Elphinston Street or Anarkali of Pindi, and was worth seeing during those times. The small narrow lanes of the present days looked so wide during old times. The Raja Bazaar caught fire a number of times when one of the whole side completely burnt out. I still remember two of the fires and saw the shopkeepers weeping on their losses. Your post is so exhaustive that it hardly needs any addition.

  11. Brig (R) Aslam Khan, 33 PMA says:

    Very authentic and interesting account. Thanks so much for re-living Pindi. May Allah bless you, Rafique Sahib.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Brig Aslam Khan,
      Many thanks for your kind appreciation, encouragement and graceful blessings.
      May Allah also bless you with the best of every thing. Ameen.

  12. Azam Gill, France says:

    Rafique Khan Sahib,
    Once again, I am overwhelmed: reading you is like listening to my father, mother, uncles and aunties about these magical and colorful times.

    You are right about the ‘Raws': they are the real ancestral/clan record holders.
    A dedicated team with recording equipment should go all over the Punjab finding them and recording them as raw data which can then be analysed and assessed by others.

    Will this ever happen or will squirrels claiming to be eagles remain patwaris to collect revenue to swell their pockets?

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Mr Azam Gill Sahib,
      Thank you very much for your such a nice appreciation/encouragement. In the absence of a proper patronizing and continuous practices such traditions are becoming instinct; and one can only pray for the same to happen again, otherwise apparently they have gone for ever.
      You might also have read about Patwaries to become instinct due to computerization of the land records in the Punjab at least. Thank God.

  13. Lt Col Masood Alam (retd) says:

    I do not have words to thank you for increasing my knowledge about Pindi of old times. Thanks a lot. Regards.

  14. Rafique Khan Sahib,

    An excellent article about Musical Bands, Brothels, Dooms/Mirasees/Nuts, Eunuchs, Raws, Street Vendors and Bakeries in Rawalpindi during pre-Partition era. الله کرے زورِ قلم اور زیادہ۔

    ‘Mirasees’ can rarely be seen in marriages held in rural areas but the ‘Raws’ have now totally vanished.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Lt Col Rashid Cheema,
      Many thanks for your kind cooperation and help to write down my memoirs.
      Yes sir, without proper patronisation such traditional “Kammies” are vanishing from the society under the so called modernization.

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