Rawalpindi, a City of Dreams and Demons (Part I)

By Maj Agha Amir Ahsan, Sigs (2nd SSC)

Editor’s Note: Maj Agha expired on 28 Nov 2012.  This article was published the next day after his death.

Many friends recently wrote about their days in Rawalpindi, which took me into another World, and I remembered my time in this beautiful city, or as it used to be.

I was born in Rawalpindi, in the same old labour room in the family’s ward of CMH, which is still in use and recently some of my grand children were also delivered in the same room. My family in those days lived in an old dilapidated accommodation originally built for the bachelor British Sergeants. After independence it was deemed fit to be allotted to married officers of the Army. Shalimar Hotel and Plaza now stand at the same site. It was a large enclosure with four barracks of about 20 to 30 rooms each. Making a large rectangle within the barracks, this enclosed a beautiful green lawn with tall trees and flower beds. As a child we lived in those rooms many times, when my father was posted to Rawalpindi and married accommodation was not available. In each later visit the trees and greenery kept vanishing steadily. My father lived in the same accommodation as late as in 1972, just before his retirement. I remember his 25th wedding anniversary which was celebrated like a wedding in the same vast lawns.

Another house where we lived was on Craig Road, we lived there for many years, the road is now known as Sir Syed Road. In those days there was no traffic on these roads except a few bicycles or an odd tonga, if by chance a car, usually a taxi, would come on the road, all the small children would start running behind it. I was not allowed to run behind the cars, because I was not a ‘ganda bachcha’, but I was really fascinated by all those street urchins and I remember watching them for long hours from the window.

I remember the long evening walks we had with our parents, I can still picture my mother walking leisurely laughing at our antics. I would race my elder sisters on my small feet holding my father’s finger, but whenever they would get ahead of me he would turn around and announce that the race was in the opposite direction. At times he would pick me up and run faster than my sisters, in any case eventually I would be the winner. These were scarce times, we did not have many luxuries of life, but those were very happy days. I remember my mother always thinking of those days as best of her life.

When I was still a toddler, my mother started teaching in Cantonment Board Sir Syed High School. This was a very prestigious institution, with very dedicated and competent teachers. The fee structure was affordable to middle class families, and standard of education was very high. The top positions in the high school examination were usually shared by this school with Cadet College Hassanabdal.

I was very small, and my mother had joined the school with a precondition that suitable arrangements will be made for me. So I was allowed to sit in the nursery with some elder children. I learned very soon to escape to the staff room to my mother or other teachers, who were all very nice to me. Our class teacher was a young, newly married and very attractive lady, by the name of Mrs. Hassan. A very favourite pastime of the other teachers was to ask me, “who will you marry”? and I would shyly say, “Mrs. Hassan”. This would always blush me and Mrs. Hassan to bright pink.   (to be continued)

More Articles by Maj Agha
Rawalpindi, a City of Dreams and Demons (Part II)
Rawalpindi, a City of Dreams and Demons (Part III)
Rawalpindi, a City of Dreams and Demons (Part IV)

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