Pindi, I Miss You!!

By Maj Siaj Syed (17 PMA Long Course)

Editor’s Note: Maj Siraj Syed is from Artillery/Aviation. He has settled in USA since 1978. 

Pic of Maj Siraj Syed

Maj Siraj Syed

In 1965, Down Town Pindi Saddar had a different look. There were some old spots which were constantly visited by the young Army Officers. First spot was the Super’s Ice Cream cafe run by the famous bald man Mukthar on Bank Road. Second was the famous Karim Samosa Wala where you could eat the best potato samosas and pink tea (opposite Standard Bank, now Habib Bank Ltd).

Unique Bakers, at the intersection of Kashmir Road and Bank Road, Rawalpindi Saddar

Unique Bakers replaced London Book Company.

In the 60s, Saddar was a neat and clean place where you could find VIPs in the evening without any security and protocol. During week-days before sunset you could find the most immaculately dressed gentleman with a felt hat matching his suit standing in front of London Book Company (Now replaced by Unique Bakers) at the intersection of Kashmir Road and Bank Road, admiring all the beautiful girls. He was the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. I have many times seen Mr. ZAB standing outside the book shop near the railing puffing in a cigarette. He always stood with one leg on the ground and the other on the curved railing. . Now in 2013, after exactly 48 years, I visit my Physical Therapist regularly in a hospital in the USA, she makes me stand on one leg. After a minute I get tired and she makes me change to the other leg. This exercise tires me out completely in ten minutes. Surprisingly M.r ZAB stood for hours together on one leg. I always remember Mr. ZAB when I am made to stand on one leg by my Physical Therapist.

Peak hours for admiring beautiful girls was one hour before sunset to two hours after sunset. The younger unmarried Army officers would come across their seniors many times and they normally tried to avoid them. The younger lot visited Saddar Pindi for fun whereas the seniors visited to find their life partners.

After this we would all go to the Pindi Club to socialize and thrice a week Tombola was played there. The younger lot created so much noise that the Anglo-Indian man who conducted Tombola would announce, “If you can’t behave like officers, then behave like gentlemen”.

Immediately after Tombola, the tables and chairs were moved to the sides and ball room dancing started off. At 12 in the night the club would close and we headed back home.

On Sundays the same beautiful Down Town (Saddar) was full with booksellers selling old books and rehri walas (Carts) selling different items like clothes or food.

Odeon Cinema and Plaza Cinema ran English movies. These two cinema houses were in one big yard opposite where Askari Bank/AWT Plaza is now located on the Mall.

During those days the Down Town (Saddar) was immaculately clean and the Station Commander was the overall in charge. Col Mustafa was the in charge for many years.

Pindi, I miss you a lot.

Related Articles:
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi 
Photos of Rawalpindi 
Universities in Islamabad/Rawalpindi
Nostalgic Memories of Rawalpindi

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  1. Faisal Tirmizi, USA says:

    With the shutting down of London Books and Broadway, an era came to an end in my beautiful hometown. Our family’s favourite was broasted chicken of Brodway. God bless you and your family Humayun Rashid Sahib for enriching our childhood.

    My neighbour and friend Mujahid Zubair used to walk home from St. Mary’s Academy Lalazar to home in Westridge opposite Kadir Motors. We used to play video games in Kashmirwallas Hotel enroute from the money saved from bus/suzuki fares.

    Pindi, unfortunately, is not a shadow of its past glories when it was one neat town between Jhelum and Indus.

  2. Jamil Ahmed says:

    I have very fond memories of old Pindi , I studied in Playway Junior school and Sir Syed School Mall Road. In Playway , Shahnawaz Bhutto was a year junior to me and was my younger brothers class fellow.
    I still remembergoing to the Esajee & Sons to get imported Chocolates with my parents. There was a famous bakery by the name of Imperial Bakery in Hathi chowk and was famous for its biscuits and Marshall bread. Supers Icecream used to make the best Chicken Sandwiches and fries besides their ever popular icecreams.
    The roads were clean and no enchroacments whatsoever were there. This was Pindi in its glorious years.

    • Zahiruddin Khan says:

      Jamil Sahib. What year were you in Sir Syed School. I also went to this school and did my maric in 1964. Capt. Niaz Sikander was the Principal and Capt. Wasif was the Vice Principal.

  3. Maj (R) Javed Khan Tareen, Avn (36 PMA) says:

    Rashid Cheema (Editor),
    Thank you for sending the link of this article by Maj Siraj Syed. It took me down memory lane, I have very fond recollections of our garrison town, Pindi. My first memory is of living in an army hut across Charring Cross back in 1953 as a boy of 7 and would get a ride with Gen Ayub Khan’s kids to go to school which was Station School, the eldest girl Nasim, wou1d get off at the Convent School. If I am not mistaken the Head Mistress was an English lady called Miss Goodlove and she had rabbits running about outside in the lawn.
    Later on when I was at Burnhall in Abbottabad, I would come down to catch a newly released film at Plaza or Odean, I vivdly remember coming down for the release of “Dr. No” in 1962. Some of the young toughs of the era were Aftab Shah, Jamshed Niazi and Meeru and they would always be hanging around in teddy pants and pointy shoes sporting long sideburns.
    Flashman’s was the posh Hotel of the time, on one end was a large statue of Queen Victoria and on the other side at the back was the Departmental Club where Anglo Indians ruled and hogged all the Saturday night dances.
    Then in 1969 I joined Army Aviation and the Aviation Mess on Peshawar Road was our home and what fun it was to be a young aviator, by then we had the Intercontinental Hotel on the Mall with its fabulous disco where young ladies in miniskirts and fashionable young blades kicked up their heels regularly, yes those were lovely times and seem like a dream now.

    • Zahiruddin Khan says:

      the name of the head mistress of Station School was Mrs. Spendlove and Mrs. Sale was the Vice principal. Three other teachers that I recall were Mrs. Barwick, Mrs. Stout and Mrs. Imam Dean.

  4. Dear Maj Siraj,
    A nostalgic article!! Please keep contributing more articles.

  5. Bala Kris says:

    I am Indian. Can’t believe this was Pakistan. How did you lose the plot?

  6. Sir, did you know that the first Indian pilot, Sardar Hardit Singh Malik was from Pindi? I have a small description about him here:

  7. Shahzad Malik, Karachi says:

    I also like Pindi!!!!

  8. Lt Col (R) Ajmal Mahmood (30 Long Course) says:

    Very interesting old memories. We must also remember the film intervals in the Plaza and Odeon cinemas on the Mall Road while sitting on the sofas/couch with white covers, a waiter would come to you, bend a little bit and ask you respectfully, “Sir, chaey ya cold drink?”

    “Chaey” was my usual reply. And then in 5 minutes he would appear again, with tea, sugar and milk in a tray. make the tea and then offer it with due respect.

    Also worth remembering is the World War II, old soldier, Brig (R) Rodham walking on the horse tracks sides on the Mall Road with an Army type camp stool. Then he would place the camp stool outside the cricket ground, put his very big buttocks on the stool and watch cricket match being played by any two Pindi teams.

    Also remember, men and women riding past on the horse tracks alongside the Mall Road, as we used to go walking to Saddar Bazar to make our hearts ‘Pishori’. Sitting on the benches in the Kirpa Ram Square ans watching young nurses going past in front of us was always an ‘Eyes opening’ moment.

    And whenever a person won the full house in Tambola at the pindi Club, he would tell the waiter to give a bottle of beer to the person calling the numbers. At mid night, he would go home ‘Tun’ because by then he had gulped 6 or 7 bottles of beer.

    What great days….

  9. John Newman says:

    I left ‘Pindi’ for UK in Feb. 1959, so my memories are a little earlier. I too attended St. Mary’s Cambridge School, when it occupied the old Holy Family Hospital. What a gracious, safe, fun time it was. The fun we enjoyed was simple and harmless.
    Yes, I remember Super’s Café well, especially the curry patties & mango ice-cream. I recall an occasion, while still a student, two friends & I visited Super’s with just enough money to pay for one patty & a cold drink. Needless to say the gentleman was willing, if a little grudgingly, to provide 3 plates & 3 straws. God Bless him.
    Broadway Bakery, I remember my grandmother always had her Christmas cake baked there, always under close supervision, to protect her secret recipe.
    Thank you all for bringing back some of the best years of my life.

    • Zahiruddin Khan says:

      Dear John. I also studied at st. mary’s School and transferred to sir. Syed School on the Mall in 1962. What class were you then in 1969. My ada had a shop next to super’s cafe and their specialty was tuti fruiti 3 in one besides mango ice cream

  10. This was forwarded by a friend. and I enjoyed reading it especially since I am now writing a series of articles about the good old days – first one will be out soon, hopefully. I have noticed that all the replies are from male readers, so my perspective will be a little different, since I am a female. It may even be a little shocking, sadly, to the narrow mindset that now exists among our people!

    • Maj (R) Arshed Ahmed Butt, Sigs (1st SSC) says:

      Madam Ishrat, Welcome to this forum. It will be a pleasure to read your nostalgic account of Pindi. It belongs to all of us irrespective of any gender bias. Waiting eagerly for your nice article. Regards!

  11. MAS Jaffri says:

    Pindi, My favorite city. Spent golden years in Gordon College from 1963-65. The College’s Jubilee hall was center of cultural activitities. Gordonians will remember the old retired military guy whose appearance to open the curtains of hall will accompany a lot of applause with slogans ” Muchh ” as he had big mustache. Kashmir road in Saddar looked very wide and in winter time, you would like to look for cover to avoid strong cold winds. I do not exactly remember the name probably silver grill was located in front of GPO considered a posh sitting place. Many yeas later, I was serving in KKH construction project close to Mansehra. Officers will often amuse with drama played in super Ice cream Cafe. One officer who used to be on leave would visit cafe to witness reaction of Mr Mukhtar in response to telephone call from long distance. Some body will call and following conversation will follow.”

    Caller: Hello is this Super Ice cream cafe?
    Reply : Yes .
    Caller: Who is speaking ;
    Reply : I am the owner .
    Caller: Sir I like to book a big order.
    Reply : You are welcome.
    Caller : Sir your ice cream is very tasty.
    Reply: Al-Hamdolillah.
    Caller: Sir how you make it. Do you make it on your tind (bald head).

    On this Mr Mukhtar will bend down behind the counter and burst with worst type of abuses. He would like to avoid the drama to be witnessed by customers in Cafe but in strong passion will forget all norms. The officer present as witness will later describe the full details on return to his unit.

  12. Albert Dean says:

    An elegant description of Rawalpindi as it was in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. At that time Pindi was so clean that walking on the Mall road in the areas of Pindi Club, Flashmans hotel and beyond, felt as if one were walking in a beautiful park full of green trees, hedges and flower beds. Yes I remember Super restaurant where the most tasty ice cream called ‘tutti-frutti’ was served. Next to this was Kamran restaurant where I and other Medical representatives would gather in the morning to have the most delicious expresso coffee. Later in the evening most medical representatives would visit Shezan restaurant on Kashmir road opposite the GPO, to gossip over the finest tea and lemon tarts. These are indeed golden memories of yester years.

  13. Would like to hear from anyone who has memories of portrait artist Hal Bevan Petman.

    • Zahiruddin Khan says:

      Mr. Yusuf. there is a facebook page for hal bevan petman developed by someone I know. I still remember him visiting saddar in his black car along with his wife, also an accomplished still life painter. bevans specialty was portraits. Summers in golf Club Murree and the balance in rawalpindi club

  14. Zeeni Zahid says:

    As everyone said very nostalgic article and very nicely compiled, only one more thing I would like to add in late 70s another trend was started. We started eating burgers known as anday-waala-burger this was omelet kabab burger. This guy used to stand with a big tawa on his stall on which he used to make burger. He used to be at the back of Ceros cinema where there was famous dahi bhalla chaat and juice corner.

  15. Maj (r) Parvez Mahmood, Arty (41 Long Course) says:

    I was born in Rawalpindi in Aug 1947, I am grateful to Maj Siraj for such a wonderful effort–yester years flashed back after going through the article–I still remember teasing “Gunja” guy of the Super Ice cream who used to take the phone under the table and cursed the callers– other friends sitting there used to enjoy that. Karim samosas are still there–someone mentioned the Barfi on the Babu Mohalla-the guy still makes that but has shifted on the opposite road near Kamran Market–by the name of Rasheed Sweets his Kulfa is also famous, now he has outlets in Satellite Town Commercial Centre and also in Islamabad.
    Most of the sons of Army guys (including me) used to study in Saint Mary’s Cambridge School on Murree Road. Earlier it housed the Old Holy Family hospital. Saddar used to be frequented daily by young officers posted in Pindi–just to raise their “morale” and go back to their respective messes.
    Pindi Club used to be full of activity. Beer, direct from the keg, was a treat for those who enjoyed it.
    Nowadays it is a challenge to visit these places due to the unplanned construction, encroachments and the flood of traffic. People at my age prefer to stay away from such noisy and crowded areas but we still love our Rawalpindi.

  16. Syed Abid Salam says:

    I am a born Pindiite, most friends will be surprised to know my place of birth was a room of old Holy Family Hospital, later Bursars office of my old School, St.Mary’s Cambridge School, Murree Road. I lived next to officers family ward, a house allotted to my father on Church Road who served in GHQ at that time. I like to mention here whenever I visited Broadway Bakery with my parents we had pleasure to meet Mr. Humayun Rashid’s father who was a palmist and offered his services as a friend to his customers. This is something to reflect on values, norms of old Pindi.

  17. Javed Khan says:

    I still remember the wonderful samosas and pink tea with the “kartoos and dahi” chutney especially after the basketball practice at the GHQ grounds.

  18. Philip Utarid says:

    Hi, nice ones of yesteryears, I would only add the famous chicken sandwiches & cold coffee whipped with ice cream ball in it of the famous Shezan restaurant. Of course the pink tea (Kashmiri chai) of Karim samosa wala was also on the hit list of eats at the Bank Road. The most famous burfi was available for those who knew the hidden alleys of Baboo mohallah opposite the old CCMA bldg where one used to go for his pension settlement.

    With the Afghan refugees influx in the 70s most of the charm has filtered away. I spent time in Pindi from 1956 to 60 & was lucky to have studied at St. Mary’s Cambridge School on Murree Road, under Fr Byrne. Still remember his motto “repetition is the mother of all studies”.

    • Kamal Khan says:

      Hi Phllip,
      I am Kamal Khan who used to be in the same class as yourself at St. Mary’s Murree Road. I remember Aubrey Lovett, Kevin Da Cunha and you were the first to sing early Elvis Presley songs (back in the late 1950s) in the class, drumming away on the seats of chairs. Very amusing. I remember Fr Byrne and Mr. Rogers who used to teach us well and cane us when we were naughty. I, too, have very fond memories of the school and Pindi. Our other classmates were Niaz and Micky Husain (whom I still am in touch with), Irfan Rasool (Tiddi), Raza Haider Zaidi, Shabaz Ali, Imtiaz Ahmed and Kaiser. It will be great to hear from you after all these years.
      Best regards

  19. Sajid Baig says:

    Sir, a nostalgic article, brings back good old days.

  20. Maj (R) Arshed Ahmed Butt, Sigs (1st SSC) says:

    A very nice nostalgic article written by Maj Siraj. Lote aa aye gardish-e-ayyam tu!!
    Thanks for sharing sweet memories of Pindi.

  21. Hasan Jawaid (USA),1st SSC says:

    Major Siraj, Although I was from Karachi but enjoyed every moment of my posting, sport activities and courses in Pindi, particularly, places you have mentioned in your article. Probably late 70s and early 80’s weren’t any different and landscape hadn’t changed much. But what a fun place it was. It offered good food, delicious ice cream, great patissa,….. and much more – restaurants, clubs, nice hang-outs etc.
    Sir, please continue writing, as it walks us back the memory lane. Never thought for a moment though that reminiscing would be so pleasant.

    • Hasan Jawaid (USA),1st SSC says:

      Col Cheema, Three cheers to you for re-uniting and connecting all of us after decades of separation. While it is entertaining, it provides tacit knowledge and information that would have otherwise remained hidden deep inside us. There was a void that I always felt after hanging my boots (cleats) and I am sure most might have felt the same way but didn’t know how to fill that gap. And, Col Cheema you have filled that void by creating this wonderful site. Kudos to you, good job and keep up the good work.

  22. Humayun Rashid, Canada says:

    Thank you for a good article of a simple but refined and civilized Pindi of the old days.

    Maj Siraj also mentions Col Mustafa as Station Commander……what a great man. I was a young kid and went to Station School with his youngest son. Col Mustafa’s wife was Mr. Bhutto’s sister(I believe). She was a very kind lady and really looked after us as kids. She would encourage her son to visit our Broadway Bakery and learn the value of hard work and entrepreneurship from my parents.

    Col Mustafa used to run a tight ship and all the gutters (nalies/drains) were cleaned every day by the Cantt staff in Saddar with chuna(lime chalk) on the sides. The people involved in food production in bakeries were regularly vaccinated and surprise hygiene checks were done quarterly. His contribution to a clean and civilized Cantonment was a great one and without any fanfare for himself.
    I have a picture of Col Mustafa in the archives and will try to send it to Col Cheema for posting on the blog.

    • Lt Col (R) Rashid Zia Cheema says:

      Mr. Humayun, I will wait for the pic of Col Mustafa. I am also waiting for you article about your father’s Broadway Bakery.

      • Humayun Rashid says:

        Will certainly find the photo from the archives.
        Col Anwar has finished the draft of the article about my father but got busy in some other stuff but he promises to find time to polish it off in November.
        best wishes

  23. Lt Col (R) Zafar Mustafa says:

    After commissioning in Sep 1958 I was posted to a unit in Westridge and our Mess was the same which later came to be known as Aviation Mess. Later we moved to Kharian but in 1961, I attended All Arms Signal course in Pindi and remember young Bhutto standing every evening where Maj Siraj has mentioned. Saddar was a nice place to spend the evenings.

  24. Saqib Malik, Central Africa says:

    I have some good memories of my childhood in Rawalpindi. My father was working in Pak Railway. He took us to these areas. My elder brother Akhtar Malik now Lt Col(Rtd) was very fond of watcingh English movies in Plaza and Odeon Cinemas. Some time he also took me and my other elder brothers to these cinemas. My elder brother Akhtar Malik and so many other relatives have settled in Pindi. I am residing in Central Africa but when I go to Pakistan my first landing is always in Rawalpindi.

  25. Lt Col Naeem Ahmed Khan ( Retd ), 2nd SSC says:

    Good addition in articles written in memory of Rawalpindi.

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