By Shaheda Rizvi
Editor’s Note: Shaheda Rizvi lives in Montreal, Canada. This is the first article by a female author, especially written for Native Pakistan. This website aims to ensure gender equality. Hope more female writers will contribute.
This nostalgic article is about the time when she lived in Westridge from 1954-58. Those were her kindergarten to fifth grade days. Her first school was Presentation Convent.
“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.” Wrote Joseph Campbell. So for me, a sacred space is not somewhere in the world where I’ve never been, just been told and talked about, but a place that I visit and revisit often and find myself lingering long, and searching caringly for those moments that have left their un-erasable marks.
My visits and revisits are not physical but psychological, to a place where time stands still. This stillness is my space, only in my mind’s eye, for I can still smell the sweet scent of the jasmine flowers as they bloomed each morning for the bees to feed from, and the birds to nest in, and for us to pick them for garlands and necklaces. Surfing the internet for this physical spot in one corner of Rawalpindi, only assures me that my sacred space is in my mind. The bushes, trees, walkways, jasmine, rose and apricot blossoms, pomegranate blossoms, peepal trees, jamun trees, our private cricket field, and dhobi-ghat, have said their long farewells, torn away and discarded as rubbish long ago.
We lived among fruit trees and rose bushes, in Westridge, Rawalpindi, on a large estate, given to my father by the Pakistan Railways. Our house number was 125 Westridge Road, secluded and yet not secluded. Three major roads bordered the house. The back road, the name I can’t remember is where the peepal trees stood guard; Westridge Road connected us to the front gate and another road that led to a bridge which connected Raja Bazar, I assume, was the side gate to this magnificent home. Railway tracks ran alongside Westridge after it crossed the bridge road, and on one corner of the Westridge Road stood one of the finest bakeries in the world. Our bread, buns and biscuits came from that bakery.
As a child I was told and later I read that all the mansions on Westridge Road, once belonged to rich families, mostly Sikh families who left Pakistan for India at the time of Partition.
It looked very much like the Poonch House, but was built with granite surrounded by fruit trees: pomegranate; mangoes; apricots, jamuns; plum bushes; loquat tree; grape vineyard; banana groves, and yes some 10 or 15 grape fruit trees.
The tree that I am often reminded of, and now with a stronger voice, as I get older, is the Peepal Tree—– sometimes referred to as the Banyan Tree, the wish-fulfilling tree. I found myself secretly drawn to its sad but strong resolve to withstand our uncaring attitude towards nature. Our Peepal tree as we called it, sat at the very edge of our house, if approached from the back road, perhaps the Military Road. While in awe of the tree, I wondered how many deep and dark secrets it held and how many travelers rested against its grand trunk or it knew so much more than I could ever imagine. I left my heart at its roots several times a week.
Qurutulain Fatima, a native Rawalpindi writer, says about Peepal tree: “A Banyan tree is Native to Indian sub continent. It is known as Bargad, Burr, Borh in Urdu/ Punjabi ……….. British Invaders gave it the name of Banyan tree after the Banyas or traders of the Hindu clans who did their dealings under the enormous tree.” 
For the sake of brevity, let me stop here because Pindi memories take me down long and lovely roads. My next installment would include friends and loved ones. Quoting Joe Campbell again: “Any world is a valid world if it’s alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.”
 Quratulain Fatima: http://pakteahouse.net/2013/
Writer is a Civil Servant who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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