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 2……
Bank Road was my father’s only market, where he would go to shop. As my younger brothers were not born as yet, I was the only son and had the privilege of sometimes accompanying him on a gentlemen’s shopping trip. My father never used a tonga, he would also never take another person with him on his bicycle, not even a child, so we would mostly walk or sometimes get a taxi, which were extremely rare in those days. Return journey used to be in a taxi, which used to be a real treat. My school uniforms also used to be stitched by the same military tailors, who used to stitch my father’s military uniforms. A ready-made shoe from Bata was very rare; my shoes were mostly handmade Oxford style blacks, which were not only very durable, but also very comfortable. While he changed many tailors, but our shoes were only made by Neeshin and family, who are still in business and have many shops around Bank Road, at that time the whole family used to work in one shop, ‘Chinese Shoe Company’.
With all this pampering, I used to be quite a well dressed gentleman. Here are my childhood photos. In one photo I am with Shafi, my father’s batman.
My father used to carry very little money in his wallet, which would be enough to pay a taxi or make a small purchase, but he would always carry his cheque book and give a cheque for bigger amounts. No shopkeeper, especially on Bank Road would ever refuse a cheque from him, or any other Army officer. When I grew up and was going to join PMA, one of his most stressed advice was, “A gentleman never mishandled his accounts, you should be very careful about your obligations, always make payments in time, never let a cheque bounce for any reason, even for a wrong date or signature”.
Money was quite valuable, Rupee used to be a big amount, ‘anna’ had its own buying power, which was sixteenth of a rupee, and then a ‘paisa’ used to be fourth of an anna. I still remember that, my father’s batman whenever returned after doing some purchases, used to give a bill with four columns on a small chit. In his very neat hand writing, he would write the item in the first column, and then the price against each item in all the three denominations up to a paisa. I would take the neat chit with the remaining change to hand over to my mother. He would never accept a tip, and my parents really had to force him to accept some money on special occasions like Eid, or if he was going on leave.
Batmen were like a part of the family, there were many who served my father during my childhood, I still remember some of them. They were a special breed, extremely faithful, polite and honorable people. Once there was a theft in our house, police was called to investigate, they wanted all servants to be handed over to them for investigations, I remember my father’s words when the police asked for the batman, he said, “He is not a servant, he is a soldier, he is beyond doubt”. Mian Muhammad, who was serving my father at the time of my birth, stayed in touch with me till his death a few years back.
(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 II)
Rawalpindi, a City of Dreams and Demons (Part IV)
Letter to a Chilean Friend
The Chocolate Fairy