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.
Continued from Part 2 ……….
There were two small bungalows near Asghar Mall Road, Rawalpindi. One near Sanatan Dharam High School. In one lived an old man and a relative- Bhagat Lachman Singh. I think he was my grandfather’s age. Another bungalow on the right hand side of Asghar Mall Road belonged to my bhua (Phupho; aunt) in which Sardar Sangat Singh, a relation used to live.
On Saidpur Road, towards Banni on the right hand side was Sarai Boota Singh which was a landmark building. At one time, it housed Sardar Boota Singh one of the big contractors and our relative. His grand-daughters were married to my father’s three cousins.
Across that bungalow, Sardar Uttam Singh Duggal’s sister used to live. Further up were 2-3 bungalows and a small, covered canal which used to go towards Khalsa High School. Thereafter it used to go towards Water Works. There were two other bungalows and a depression with a Pull (bridge) on the road.
At the corner of Murree Road, there was a big bungalow. I don’t know who owned that. From Murree Road Chowk, one road went to Chaklala where the airport was located. During the war, many old aircraft used to drop parachutes and sometimes we used to see some aircraft pulling drones behind them and dropping troops and materials with parachutes.
On Murree Road, going towards Saddar, was Holy Family Hospital, then DAV College (off Murree Road), then Gordon College (off Murree Road), where the road joined Company Bagh Road (Now Liaquat Road). Kothi of Bhagat Lachmi Das a relative and one of the leading lawyers of Rawalpindi was located across Company Bagh (Now Liaquat Bagh). Dr. Leela’s (a known doctor of Rawalpindi) bungalow was also located on Company Bagh Road and three other bungalows owned by Hindu and Sikh families. Company Bagh also had a cricket ground. The best shop for foreign goods in whole of Pindi and Saddar, Kirpa Ram’s was also on Company Bagh Road.
After the intersection of Company Bagh Road and Murree Road, at a distance was Islamia School with a very imposing building. Then Lei Bridge, across which was the Cantonment (Saddar) area. Rawalpindi Cantonment was the second best in India, and was the headquarters of the Northern Command. Some of the elite bungalows, hotels, cafes, billiard rooms and other entertainment were located there and also the Flashman’s Hotel. Lalkurti was also located in Cantonment area, where the Tommies used to stay.
Once or twice I saw parades of Gora Paltans with Scottish Highlanders and their kilts and bands of various regiments playing and marching along the parade. It was very fascinating to watch so many people in uniform and in step with the band. My uncle owned the Mall Hotel and lived close by. I remember having seen him plying his gig with an abandoned race horse. I also saw another gig with a Muslim gentleman plying with a zebra on the Mall Road. In the Cantonment there was a Markeet (Market), renamed as Kamran Market after Partition. There were many shops selling meat, beef, fish, and all kinds of sausages, etc. One could get anything one liked.
From the Cantt the road led to Katcharian (Courts) and the Central Jail. Like a dream I remember I went there once with my father in a Tonga when we were staying at Nehru Road. My father was also Treasurer of Rawalpindi District. His Chief Munshi was Ganda Singh Ji with sub-munshis of Gujar Khan, Murree, etc. Munshi Ganda Singh used to come around 7th or 8th of every month to give Rs. 800 to my mother with which she used to run the house. Petrol was Rupee 1 and 4 annas per gallon. Asli ghee was Rs. 14 for a tin. Eggs were 2 anna a dozen, and banana was 8 anna per dozen. Gold was Rs. 22 per tola. Rawalpindi was the hub of fruit and dry fruit coming from Kashmir, rest of India, Afghanistan and Iran. In Winter, the rains used to be in a jhari (drizzle). Once in about 10 years, we also had snow which used to melt within an hour or two.
The weather was so cold that we used to wear over coats and gloves. The roadside dust was chikni that it was impossible to walk on katcha roads, as the shoes used to get stuck. We urchins would sometimes go to Telli Mohala to get latoos (spinning tops) made from the kharadiyas. They were not only good at making latoos but also were excellent kharad workers making different kinds of goods. They were all Muslims. They (Muslims) were also very good mechanics, and very good in other trades. We used to have many kite flying competitions and latoo competitions. Marble competitions with our many Muslim friends. I only remember the names of Khalqa who was from a nearby village and Mushtaq and Maqsood and their families near Water Works.
Some of these things I remember very well, others are like a dream. In front of Rose Cinema, Fawara Chowk, Raja Bazaar, there was a rehri (push-cart) selling eggs which was favourite of many people during the interval enjoyed with masala. Another delicacy was Pindi Choley, Aloo Kulchey, a specialty and bai roti. Wangi wala bhaiya used to sell dry channa, rewarian, murunda pati, and all kinds of birds and animals made of sugar. Another man used to come, making noise with a funny whistle on a thick stick with so many kinds of colored candies.
We owned 9 shops on the Mall Road, which were all rented out. In one of the shops, there was a petrol pump as well.
In summer, we either spent some time in Lahore with our father, or went to Murree to live in kothis (bungalows) at Kashmir Point. Our munshi used to go and hire the bungalow for the season (1st April to 31st October). The whole area of Murree and the surrounding hills were covered with pine trees, the pine cones of which were used for the fireplaces. They gave out a wonderful aroma. The view from there of snow-covered hills and peaks was breathtaking.
Our journey from Rawalpindi to Murree passed through Chattar where there was a garden full of Lokaat and other fruit trees. It belonged to one of our relatives. After Chattar was Satra Meel (17th milestone to Murree) from where the hills started. It was a narrow road with a phatak. Cars going up and down to Murree had to wait as it was one way traffic. Going further up was TRAIT, in which lots of sanatoriums were located. After that, was a pumping station (Chara Paani). After that was Murree Brewery with a signboard (“Murree Brewery is the best”) producing the best beer in India. Mr. Mohan used to supply bottles to that brewery (Mr. NN Mohan and his family later founded Solan Breweries on the way to Simla in India, producing all kinds of spirits). After that was a junction of Cart Road (on which only the Carts used to ply). The road used to go to Srinagar. A short distance away was the start of Koh Murree. Ater reaching Sunny Bank, one moved towards Kuldana and from there followed the road going up towards GPO (General Post Office). First stop was the library with the GPO. The cars were allowed to go only up to that point.
After GPO you had to go by foot or by Rickshaws drawn by men, or by dandi (shoulder cart). There were many ponies with their owners who used to take you around on their ponies. If there was a child the saddle was with a ring. Kashmiris or the local villagers used to carry your baggage to your bungalow. Murree was located at about 7,300 feet. From the oppressive heat of Rawalpindi to Murree with pine trees all around was a very healthy environment. We then would go to Kashmir Point, to our hired bungalow, on the pony with a ring saddle. In Murree, sometimes we saw a film in a cinema house near the GPO. There were various parties from other parts of the country coming to Murree to spend the season. From Pindi Point in Murree you could see the lights of Rawalpindi.
In Pindi, our cook was a Kashmiri from Poonch. Our chowkidaar was a gurkha, about 6 ft 6 inches tall, ex Wartime Soldier and he walked with a limp. Gawala (milkman) was a handsome Muslim and the Maali (gardener) was a bhaiya. On Saidpur Road, during winter, some karanchi walas (cart) used to come and offer wood for cooking. My mother used to bargain with them and then take two Karanchi loads and the servants used to put that in special storage rooms for balan (firewood). She also used to take one karanchi load of bhoosa (hay) for our animals. In winter, these karanchis used to come from Saidpur side heavily loaded with hay, at night. We urchins used to pull out hay from the rear while the karanchis were sleeping. Thereby, collecting a lot of hay for the Kashmiri labor to enjoy the fire.
In Pindi also lived the familes of Late Rai Bahudur Boota Singh, two sons from first wife; Sardar Harnam Singh and Sardar Jaidev Singh, both friends of my father and close relations. Sardar Harnam Singh had one son and three daughters. My father got the daughters married to his cousins and the son married in Abbottabad to Sardar Lakhmi Singh’s daughter. He was a andlord and my father’s close relative. He was very well-respected in Abbottabad as he owned a lot of propery. He had two sons and a daughter. I had attended his daughter’s wedding as a 5-year-old, but I don’t remember a thing of Abbottabad. Sardar Lakhmi Singh passed away soon after the marriage. His second son Harinder started a REAL LOVE STORY. I will have to digress from Pindi to Abbottabad to narrate this interesting love story.
Harinder the second and a very handsome, tall, brown-eyed son of Sardar Lakhmi Singh fell deeply in love with a Muslim girl from an influential family of Abbottabad. They decided to elope but Harinder backed out. Then the news was conveyed to her father. Like a true father he admonished them and asked Harinder if he would convert to Islam to marry his daughter whom he would otherwise have killed. At that moment blind love drove Harinder to say YES. No other member in either families knew this. Harinder, as a Sikh started observing Roza (Fast) during Ramzan. He was my elder brother’s friend and our relative, and stayed upstairs with my brother in Pindi. Harinder had a small mustache and small beard. One day, as he was dressing up after applying wax to his mustache to twirl, one part came off. It looked very funny to a 14-year old, so I started laughing. Harinder shouted at the top of his voice, “Get out and run away, oye khanzeer (O’ Swine)!”. I ran away as fast as I could.
After the Partition, we moved to Mussorie, India. Harinder moved to Delhi. In Karachi and Delhi some thing was cooking up to unite this couple. The girl along with her parents moved to Karachi (then capital of Pakistan) to get Harinder out to Pakistan by completing the required formalities without anybody’s knowledge. Harinder’s mother and other family members had no knowledge of his intention to marry and settle in Pakistan. I am sure some phone calls or letters must have been exchanged.
On the appointed day in 1948, Harinder flew from Delhi to Bombay, and the girl from Karachi to Bombay. Their marriage was solemnized as per Muslim custom. He took the name SALAH-UD-DIN IQBAL. They stayed in Bombay for two days and then flew to Karachi and then moved to Abbottabad. They later came to India on several times and visited us in Amritsar, Chandigarh and Delhi. We are told that the Pakistan Government had restored Harinder’s share of property to him.
The couple lived happily ever after, had no children and lived a blissful life. I am told they both passed away one after the other a few years back and are buried next to each other. May their souls find beautiful shelter in our maker’s blissful garden for a couple so deeply in love to break all man-made barriers.
“Pindi Memoirs by a Sikh Son of the Soil (Part 1)”
“Pindi Memoirs by a Sikh Son of the Soil (Part 2)”
“Pindi Memoirs by a Sikh Son of the Soil (Part 4)”
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi
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