By Kanwarjit Singh Malik
Editor’s Note: Kanwarjit Singh Malik was born in Rawalpindi in 1930. His family moved to India at the time of Partition in 1947. He joined Flying Club in Jalandhar, later was selected in Indian Air Force. After the retirement he served as senior Captain in Air India and Air Lanka.
I have recently read 19 episodes of “My Old but Ever New Pindi”, a series of “Nostalgic Aricles about Rawalpindi”, written by Rafique Khan Sahib, in a website; Native Pakistan. Being a native of Pindi, these articles took me back to the good old days. Today sitting in Foster City, near San Francisco, USA, at the home of my daughter, I remember Pindi as it was in my mind as I remember.
In Rawalpindi our Malik family was very well-known, especially my father Malik Mukhbain Singh. He had many Muslim friends, Mian Aslam and Mian Akram (Lakri taal wallas), Choudhry Maula Dad and all his brothers and their father/uncle M. Azam Khan who was member Cantt Board. My father himself was member Municipal Committee and Director Rawalpindi Electric Supply Bus Company, which plied in the city. Malik Qayum Sahib of Shamsabad, Sir Sikandar, Nawab Muzaffar Khan and all the elders were his personal friends. Mian M. Nur Ullah, Pakistan’s first Finance Minister, especially came to stay with my father in a Barrack in 1948 where he was staying then. I served them myself. He was accompanied by Nawab Muzzafar Khan. There were so many others which I don’t remember now because as children we were not allowed to sit in the gathering.
I was born on 7 November 1930 in one of my great-grandfather’s houses on Nehru Road (This road goes from Raja Bazar towards Akal Garh, Bagh Sardaran and finally the last limit Dosera Grounds), this house was converted as living quarter for my grandfather Malik Chaiber Singh.
Ours was a joint family, most of the property on the opposite side was owned by my great-grandfather, MALIK KHAZAN SINGH, who lived in Old Pindi, Saidpuri Darwaza, CHATTI HUI GALI (known by our Baradri as Wada Ghar).
My great-grandfather MALIK KHAZAN SINGH was born in 1813. He moved from Dera Khalsa (Tehsil Kahuta) to Rawalpindi between 1833 to 1838 when he was 20 to 25 years old. His mother sent him to Pindi with Rs.25/- He also served in the Army of Mahraja Ranjit Singh and moved with them up to Kabul. Later, he became a general Contractor like so many other Pindiwals. He had the monopoly of Dak of Pindi District. His Tongas and Victorias used to go up to Murree. As said earlier, these horses were put up in the Old House which was later converted as living quarter. He passed away in 1899.
His son Malik Chaiber Singh (my grandfather) lived with the joint family in the Old House. Later my grandfather moved with his younger sons to his bungalow on Circular Road. It was the biggest bungalow (3 acres) in Pindi city. It was opposite L. Kalyan Das Haveli, Gali Surian.
We are basically Sikh Ahluwalia. MALIK was the Title bestowed on our ancestors with village Dera Khalsa as Jagir as the saying goes by GAKHAR RAJAS.
My father’s youngest uncle Malik Dogar Singh lived opposite as he had built a palatial bungalow there. On the left of our house lived Bakhshi Jagan Nath, in front of his house he had some fruit trees. He enjoyed sitting there. On our right was SARAN SARDAN DI. Then there was a small road leading to the bungalow of Mrs. Hardit Singh. She was mother of Sardar Sohan Singh and Mohan Singh. From the bungalow of Mrs. Hardit Singh, I used to notice Chinese looking caravan travelers. They were actually merchants from Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia with their horses and yaks. My mother used to buy carpets from them. When we moved to our bungalow at Chowk Saidpur Road, she had 23 carpets of all sizes. She also bought one SAMURI (very large coat made of so many very fine animal skins) for my father but he never wore that. It used to fill one large box.
Next was a Gurdwara and Mandir built by Sardar Sujan Singh, father of Sardar Hardit Singh. Next was the SARDARAN DA BAGH. It had big gates on both sides. There were about six acres of trees of all types and flowers, Big Gharyal (Clock Tower), Library and huge bungalow of Sardar Sohan Singh (known as Shahzada Kothi). I visited this many times with my father, they were friends. Sardar Mohan Singh lived in Cantonment in the best bungalow of Pindi. That Victorian style bungalow became the Presidency of Pakistan around the mid 1960’s. Later, Fatima Jinnah Women University, the first Women University of Pakistan, was established in the premises of this bungalow on August 6, 1998.
The land opposite SARDARAN DA BAGH also belonged to my great-grandfather so it became part of his youngest son who built that imposing only bungalow on Nehru Road. All land behind and the road going to Mohalla Akal Garh belonged to him.
There were so many small shops, selling pakoras, rations, even Guddas (Kites) and Halwai shops. Small houses/shops were paying rent of 15/20 rupees per month. At the back were many KUMHARS all on rent of 10/15 rupees per month.
Continuation was Normal School for Girls. Even I was there as a special case, may be for 10/15 days, used to play with Nayar Sultana, daughter of then Head Mistress in 1934. I have only faint memory of my stay in that girls school. After this school was Deere Mander Baba Sarab Dyal, then a gap with some houses and wild growth. Further on was the Cremation Ground and the Lei Stream (now called Lei Nullah). I believe Pir Wadhai and Pir of Golra then owned most of the land on other side of Lei, which divided the city from Cantonment. We were not allowed to go anywhere without servants till Partition.
SARDARAN DA BAGH was between two roads. A little after the Bagh, the road branched to the right, called Asghar Mall Road. Malik Harnam Singh’s bungalow was located on this road. We used to call that bungalow as “BAROOD KHANE WALI KOTHI CHACHA JI DI”. We watched Dusehra from there. The very big ground was known as Dusehra Ground. Opposite this Ground was TB Hospital with another very vast ground.
We shifted from Nehru Road house to our newly built bungalow in 1936/37 at Chowk Saidpur Road. It was located at the cross road of Saidpur Road /Asghar Mall Road. Our bungalow was a land mark, along with SARAN SARDAR BOOTA SINGH, our close relation.
I studied in Presentation Convent School in Cantonment, Singh Sabha School in Raja Bazar, Khalsa School near Banni Mai Veeran on Saidpur Road, finally up to 10th class Khalsa High School (now Muslim High School No. 1) near our bungalow.
SANATAN DA SCHOOL had an imposing building. BANNI MAI VEERAN (sister of Sain Sahib, the Head of Bhagats of Rawalpindi) was built by her with entire secular population of Pindi taking part as a holy cause in memory of SAIN SAHIB.
Asghar Mall Road extended up to Murree Road. On the way was a bungalow of Sardar Hari Singh and three or four other bungalows, rest were all Mohallas including Kartar Pura on a road which joined MAI VEERAN BANNI.
The land behind the JAMIA MASJID, the most imposing mosque in Rawalpindi Division, belonged to Sardar Sujan Singh, grandfather of Sardar Sohan Singh. On the other road leading to Pull Shah Nazar on Jamia Masjid Road lived Bakshi Shiv Ram in a very nice house. He had a very beautiful Tonga and used to come visiting my father in that Tonga plying himself.
Uncle Harnam Singh owned Lakshmi Cinema, while Rose Cinema was owned by some Peshoria Sardar Swaran Singh whose son Gurdip was my brother’s class fellow in Khalsa High School. TO BE CONTINUED ………
“Pindi Memoirs by a Sikh Son of the Soil (Part 2)”
“Pindi Memoirs by a Sikh Son of the Soil (Part 3)”
“Pindi Memoirs by a Sikh Son of the Soil (Part 4)”
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi
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