Rawalpindi – Landscape of my Dreams

By Shaheda Rizvi, Canada 

Editor’s Note: Shaheda Rizvi lives in Montreal, Canada. She remembers her house and dog (“Tommy”) in Westridge, Rawalpindi in 1950s.

We lived in House No. 125 Westridge, Rawalpindi back in 1950s. The grounds of  the house were a little heaven for all of us. Examining my love for Rawalpindi , which has  really never left my side, I feel convinced that to love a piece of land, or anything for that matter, you don’t need to own it or possess it, you don’t calculate its value — Loving it means you are possessed by it. There is something mysterious and mystical about this connection. Chief Seattle’s letter to Washington describes my relationship to the Pindi soil, and a few lines from that are most appropriate here: “What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.”

Driveway from the main gate to the house. Cricket Field and Badminton Court was to the left. Picture, Courtesy of Brig Tariq.

Driveway from the main gate to the house. Cricket Field and Badminton Court were to the left. Photo, Courtesy of Brig Tariq Saeed.

Summer, it was almost gone. We all had our fill of the finest fruits  in season. Jammun was my favourite but very difficult to pick. There were many other fruit trees asking for our attention. The  best way to pick our  fruits, at least from the grape fruit trees, was to climb up the tree, adjust our weight and carefully position our feet, and then reach for the fruit, pick it and place it in a  knapsack. Most days, we could collect twelve or thirteen grapefruits —- there was so much else when it came to vegetables but that didn’t require our tree climbing skills.

125 Westridge Road—cricket field with a view of one of the grapefruit tree. My brothers and I playing cricket.

125 Westridge Road—cricket field with a view of one of the grapefruit tree. My brothers and I playing cricket.

Autumn with its pretty colours and sweet scent of  dry leaves was here. My mother had completed her knitting tasks for the year. Most of our sweaters, mufflers, gloves, even socks were hand-made.

wool yarn.

Wool yarn.

Knitting was my mother’s hobby and she  purchased all varieties from a wool vendor, who travelled from house to house, carrying a tin trunk  full of gorgeous yarns of hand-dyed wool. Our wool vendor’s trunk was a Pindi-home-bound woman’s dream. There were wool yarns from Landi Kotal;  muslin from India and nail polish from markets in Peshawar…all he had to do was unveil little by little the various layers of  his  cave of jewels.

A dog (not Tommy).

A dog (not Tommy).

The year was 1958. My  father had his transfer orders and we were getting ready to leave the land of our dreams for a fast alive and tremendously sought after city (at least  that’s what I was told). All our belongings were carefully packed but there was ONE that never crossed our minds. Our most adorable dog  “Tommy” who ran behind our Tonga from Westridge Road to Rawalpindi Railway Station, oblivious to his own safety, just one thing was paramount, that is, how NOT to part from those who little knew their own fate.

Related Articles:
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi 
Photos of Rawalpindi 
Rawalpindi Memorabilia
Nostalgic Memories of Rawalpindi

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Comments

  1. Faisal Tirmizi, USA says:

    Man’s best friend. I read your pieces and comments of Mr. Yashpal from Chandigarh, I met a Sikh gentlemen in Chicago whose father was born in Pindi and wrote extremely beautiful verses in Urdu, Some of his poems are an eulogy of the Prophet Muhammad.

    I am surprised that you never went back to Pindi after 1958 but I am sure you do every night when you go to sleep. My father migrated from Roper, East Punjab in 1947 and never went back but used to speak very fondly of the place till his last days.

    I agree with observations of Chief Seattle, we do not own anything on this planet.

  2. A POET SAID , ” YAD-E-MAZI AZAB HEY YA RUB ” ………” CHEEN LEY MUJH SEY HAFIZA MERA”…..BUT MY PAST IN PINDI ( SINCE 1952) IS FULL OF SWEET MEMORIES. I ONCE SAVED ONE ANNA BY NOT TRAVELLING IN THE GTS BUS N INSTEAD AFTER LEAVING THE SCHOOL WHILE GOING TO MY HOUSE I BOUGHT A KHEERA PLACED ON AN ICE BLOCK ON A REHRI N MADE SURE TO FINISH IT B 4 ENTERING MY HOUSE IN LALKURTI.. LT.COL(R) AJMAL MAHMOOD , 30 PMA.

    • shaheda rizvi says:

      A POET SAID , ” YAD-E-MAZI AZAB HEY YA RUB ” ………” CHEEN LEY MUJH SEY HAFIZA MERA” ..very powerful message here. Re: your own Kheera and one anna story, that too is so powerful …I am reminded of : “Opportunities to find deeper powers
      within ourselves come when life seems most challenging ” so that could be why painful moments linger longer in our memories.

  3. The best part of nostalgic narrative was about the dog Tommy.

    • shaheda rizvi says:

      Absolutely right, Brig Asif Haroon, that is the lens through which I myself view this tale. In gratitude, I’ll post a few more episodes, at another time, most relate to Tommy’s chase to and from the Rawalpindi Railway Station, which also remained his temporary abode after we abandoned him.

      Here is a “LOST & FOUND” Notice that mirrors Tommy’s life:

      NOTICE – LOST DOG: Walks on three legs, one leg lost at the Rawalpindi Railway Station. Has one eye, one eye lost in a stone-storm while being evicted from his former home. Half a tail, the other half lost? or chopped off? Answers to the name: “LOVE” ..aka TOMMY.

  4. Shaheda Rizvi, Canada says:

    Dear Friends,

    Regarding Tommy: I am too timid or perhaps too ashamed to express Tommy’s sorrow as he fought the traffic to reach Rawalpindi Rialway station. Let me skip a lot and just say a few words. Once at the station, he glued himself next to our compartment, even though the invisible glass windows parted us permanently. From time to time a conductor or a Railway employee would hurl a stone at him, Of course Tommy remained oblivious to all insults, physical and verbal abuse meant nothing in the face of that which he held dear. Words such as “Hatto Hatto, Maaro Maaro” fell on deaf ears. As our train rolled away, all we saw were large wide eyes glazed at the train with utter disbelief……A year later, we learnt through another Railway employee that Tommy had to be lured back to the house for his own safety but the new occupants of 125 Westridge Road did not accommodate Tommy’s needs, drove him away from his tiny stone porch…how? I can just imagine. Then an employee named Hatim took care of him, and fed him if and when he could. Tommy died a year after our parting.

    Regarding our wool and everything vendor: What I remember most about him was his immense enthusiasm and energy at selling even a tiny hair-clip, explaining to my mother, as to how it happened to reach him, despite of all laws against goods from India. Such salesmanship is pretty much unimaginable in our large super market culture. We also compensated him with our hand-picked Jammuns, and most often plums—there were more than 10 or 20 plum bushes on that piece of heaven (125 Westridge Road). As a matter of fact, the one and only picture of our cricket field posted along with this article, captured quite well one plum bush and one grape fruit tree.

    Thank you for commenting on love that surpasses possession and ownership. And thanks ever so much for your comment with reference to Urdu poetry. Actually, all the Urdu that I learnt was also because of Rawalpindi, or at least a good foundation was set through a magazine called “Bachoon Ki Dunya. More on that in my next article on “Rawalpindi – and Bachoon Ki Dunya” and I am not sure whether it’s still available.

    Thanks so much to all who have commented.

    Tommy’s breed: I think he was a cross breed, a mutt a mix. But to me he was the finest looking black-lab.

  5. Madam,
    Thank you for sharing your love for the city of my birth where I spent 16 years of my childhood in moje masti. Lot of adorable memories are etched on my mind and your write up has once again made me emotional. Thanks.

  6. Lt Col Masood Alam (retd) says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. A very well written article. I enjoyed reading it. I remember those days when many teachers used to bring their knitting to the school and during break used to do the knitting, it was quite common those days. Now one seldom sees these things. I am a lover of dogs and animals, so I am also thinking about what happened to Tommy afterwards? Regards.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Col Masood, Thanks for your comments and inquiry regarding Tommy. Being an animal lover, you know and feel for distressed, abandoned and neglected dogs in that area. Therefore, I skipped the grief caused by our abandonment and the torment rendered through those who thought it was right to beat, stone, and chase a harmless dog. Tommy lost a leg while being chased from his little stone porch, and then the person who provided him a home, “Hatim”, did the best he could to feed Tommy. It was a year after we left Pindi that we learnt that Tommy had been limping for a while, appeared malnourished, and died in his sleep. (Sigh)

  7. Mary Gilbert (nee Punchard) says:

    Like Azam Gill I would like to know what happened to “Tommy” your beloved dog? I worked in the Holy Family Hospital, training as a nurse, and loved my 3 years there.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Mary,

      Thanks for asking about Tommy. Tommy died a year later, mostly from starvation and an injured leg. I do remember the Holy Family Hospital.

  8. Zahid Salam says:

    Nostalgic article indeed especially the colourful knitwear basket, brought back my own mother’s memories and her fondness for knitting sweaters, etc. The main arterial road through the Rawalpindi Cantt, starting roughly from East to West composed of three sections. Namely Jhelum Road, The Mall Road and then Peshawar Road. The major landmarks were Topi Park (now Ayub Park)on eastern end while WESTRIDGE as the name donates on the Western end. This artery was divided by the Murree Road (South to North) at Mulka ka Butt, forming an intersection/junction (GHQ was located on its Southern end) and went through the Pindi city towards North to Murree.

  9. Madam, a fascinating piece of poetic prose. This reminds me of my childhood days I spent in Rawalpindi. I studied in Viqar Un Nisa School, later on in Central Government Model School in Satellite Town, then Gordon college. I live in UK now. I miss butterflies and colourful flowers of Rawalpindi. Your description of wool vendor is exquisite. My mum, Allah grant her Jannah, use dto knit sweaters for all the family. One should never forget one’s roots.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Thanks Sajid Beg. Re: “One should never forget one’s roots.” Is it not said that childhood impressions are strong, mainly because there is a lesson to be learnt or a fate to reconcile with?

  10. Tariq Masud says:

    Shaheda Rizvi has rightly said that ownership or possession is not the pre requisite for loving a thing. In fact, the opposite is more true; intensity of love increases, at times manifolds, when one is unable to possess. Classical Urdu poetry is full of describing the severity of “Hijer” or “Feraq”.

  11. Zahiruddin Khan aka Babar says:

    Was this house off Peshawar Road past Charing Cross. I live a few minutes away from this place since 1963. The serenity is all gone, traffic is a big mess, law and order is nothing to write home about. Some of the old houses still have the best jammun trees, big and juicy jammuns not to be found in the market. All the trees along the road have been cut down and not replaced. A more than 100 years old banyan tree was cut down just to make way for a service lane. It could have been easily avoided but then the powers that be have never heard about ecology and the part trees play in the life of citizens. They were interested in the timber only. Its a shame but thats how life is getting around here. When was the last time you visited this area? It might turn out to be a shock.
    ALLAH HAFIZ.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Zahiruddin Khan,

      Thank you for your comment. Difficult for me to answer your question regarding the location with reference to Peshawar Road. I have not visited Pindi since 1958. However, through courtesy of Brig Tariq Saeed & Col Cheema, I received a few pics of the house. It was not the same, not even the trees, it appeared that the Banyans were replaced with some modern variety of ever greens, and the tall green hedges that bordered and protected the entire property had been replaced by tall concrete walls and a gate. As a matter of fact, I posted those pics in my last article on ‘Sorrows of a Pastry Man’……I am not sure what the surroundings look like now.

  12. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah says:

    Madam Shaheda,
    Indeed childhood memories are treasure and remain with us till the time we live. We enjoyed your recollection of your house. It reminds me of old Model Town Lahore, every house and connecting roads had all sorts of fruit trees.

  13. Azam Gill, France says:

    Thank you, Shaheda Rizvi for another exquisite piece of lyrical, heart-warming prose. What became of Tommy? What breed was he?

    • shaheda rizvi says:

      Dear Azam Gull,

      Thanks for your heart warming comments as well. Re: Tommy : Once at the station, he glued himself next to our compartment, even though the invisible glass windows parted us permanently. From time to time a conductor or a Railway employee would hurl a stone at him. Of course Tommy remained oblivious to all insults — physical and verbal abuse meant nothing in the face of that which he held dear. Words such as “Hatto Hatto, Maaro Maaro” fell on deaf ears.

      As our train rolled away, all we saw were large wide eyes glazed at the train with utter disbelief……A year later, we learnt through another Railway employee that Tommy had to be lured back to the house for his own safety but the new occupants of 125 Westridge Road did not accommodate Tommy’s needs, drove him away from his tiny stone porch…how? I can just imagine. Then an employee named Hatim took care of him, and fed him if and when he could. Tommy died a year after our parting.

      Tommy was a cross breed, but to me he was as handsome as the handsomest black lab.

      Tommy’s last year of life can best be described through this notice:

      NOTICE – LOST DOG: Walks on three legs, one leg lost at the Rawalpindi Railway Station. Has one eye, one eye lost in a stone-storm while being evicted from his former home. Half a tail, the other half lost? or chopped off? Answers to the name: “LIFE..aka TOMMY.

  14. Madam,
    As usual a nostalgic article with powerful prose.

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