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 5 ………..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …………
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
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