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

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.

Continued from Part 1……

As the nursery used to finish earlier than the rest of the school, a maid was hired to look after me till my mother and elder sisters would be free. She used to take me to the Children’s Park near the back gate of the school. This gate is still there and opens on Sir Syed Road near the famous ‘Panj Sarki Petrol Pump’. Although the maid was supposed to take me straight to our home, she would always stop in the children’s play area just inside the gate. I usually loved this small break for my love of the swings.

While I used to be on the swings or the merry-go-round, my ears were always eavesdropping on my maid and the gate-keeper. As the gate used to be still locked except for an occasional visitor, he used to come and sit with my maid and talk to her. The gate-keeper used to pass lewd remarks on the maid, and she would scold him in mock anger, but her blushing and sheepish smiles would always encourage him. Once while playing, I picked up a very obscene remark of the gate-keeper and started repeating it at the top of my voice, while this was very amusing for him, the maid tried her best to shush me and to be quiet, but the more she tried to stop me, the louder I would yell. Very soon I realized that this was a weak point with her, and she would get panicky and start shushing me whenever I said it. My parents did not understand a word of Punjabi, and never knew what I was saying, but when I would do it on the road, everybody around used to start looking at us, and the maid used to put her hand on my mouth to keep me silent. This became my pet sentence for a long time, and a real nightmare for my maid. But she never told my mom and it was much later, when I found out the real meaning and stopped.

The school was quite close to our home, so we used to walk home. My father had a bicycle, which he used for going to his office, or at times when he had to go alone. He had a servant, who was for some strange reason called a batman. There always used to be two bicycles in our home, the new one used to be my father’s, and a slightly old one with the batman. At times I used to get a ride with the batman, but my father never let anybody ride with him.

For ladies, we would always get a tonga, or a taxi if the journey was longer. At times we used to get a military truck on payment to go on a picnic or some other outing. All around us was military accommodation and all our neighbors were Army officers, and all of them had bicycles, some of them would also take their children on their bicycles, but the only double riding allowed in our home was when I would ride with the batman. I somehow knew that I could be proud of my father, when he would not let anybody ride with him, it seemed dignified. However a very close friend of my father, who was also an Army officer, would always give me a ride around the block on his bicycle.

There was only one car in the whole neighborhood, which was owned by a civilian officer working in the military accounts. We were all very good walkers and going up to Bank Road used to be a big treat on Sunday, when my mother with all her children would walk up to London Book Company located where now Unique Bakery is. The round trip used to be around 5 KMs (We were living near DIG’s house on Craig Road. The route used to be from home to ‘Panjsarki’ Chowk to Ministry of Defence, turn left on Murree Road and then turn right on Bank Road to Kashmir Road intersection). The roads were clean with a nice footpath, which always had a slope at both ends for wheelchairs and children prams. The best part of the trip used to be ice cream in Kamran Café on Bank Road, next door to the book shop.       (to be continued)

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

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