By Shaheda Rizvi, Canada
Editor’s Note: Shaheda Rizvi lives in Montreal, Canada. She remembers how a 3-year-old boy reached her house in Westridge, Rawalpindi in 1950s and later reunited with his father through the announcement of Radio Pakistan.
We failed our dog Tommy but Tommy never failed us (Editor: Shaheda Rizvi wrote about Tommy in her previous article, Rawalpindi – Landscape of my Dreams). It was a soft, silent, airy and pleasantly warm evening, sort of evening when children play outdoors and older folks reflect at the beauty of flowers, trees, sunset and the distant snow-covered mountain tops—Yes the mountains that we could see from our house were snow-covered even during warm months. For some reason, the evening that I am to reflect on, in this story was not a story book evening. Tommy had barked more than usual, causing great indignation from many members of our family plus my Mamu’s family who were guests from Lahore. That he would have to forego his usual crumbs and a few bones was undoubtedly one part of his punishment. That Tommy lost his head right when we had settled for dinner was not going to go down lightly.
Tommy was a gift to us from Yousef, a Pakistan Railway employee who along with Tommy lived at 125 Westridge Road, even before we arrived and occupied it. Tommy came with the house, fully trained, ready to spread his faithfulness and sweetness on all of us. But we were not ready or perhaps needed lot more training. What a blessing, however. Once a month or so, my father inspected Signals work on the Railway line, along with another Railway officer, and Yousef and a few other employees pushed a Railway Trolley. For some unknown reason, the photograph below remained safe from the chaos that hit our home a few years ago.
Yousef, the man who gifted us with Tommy is right behind my father (in glasses) – 1955.
But I am getting ahead of the story or digressing.
Back to the evening when Tommy lost his crumbs. This unstoppable barking without any signs of an obvious intruder was very puzzling. Finally Mamu decided to step away from the dinner table and out onto the veranda to inspect the cause if any. The barking stopped.
Mamu: “Who are you ? Come here, Come here, don’t be afraid. Come…”
This went on for a while.
Sound of soft sobs was heard. We all rushed out, and there in the dark, on the front Veranda stood a child of not more than 3 or 4, afraid, alone, scared and yes LOST. Mamu, being a very affectionate man, comforted the child and the child responded with more sobs, and slowly climbed into his arms, to be led into our house. Not only we forgot to thank Tommy who was patiently waiting to be patted for his good work, but deprived him of one night’s dinner. All that to say, our senses were limited and we could not quite grasp a dog’s dance to the mystery of life. Our Tommy was very much like a gentle soul or a scholar who’s never moved by praise or blame but remains focused on his spirituality or his discovery.
For the next two days, we talked of nothing but this lost child and how to connect him with his relatives. Telephone rang many times during the day. Did he have any relatives? Where was he found? What language does he speak? Clothes? Is he wearing shoes? Name? Walked all the way from the railway tracks in the dark!!!? Surely, he had a father, for he had attached himself to Mamu and called him “ABBA”….
All our neigbours knew that we had found a young 3-year-old on our Veranda, and they too worked and hoped to find this child’s family. Rawalpindi Radio Station announced, many times during the day that a young child had been found at a house located in the Cantonment area, and the parents were to contact via phone. We hovered around the radio and listened to the announcement very carefully. And Lo!! Our prayers were answered. Child’s father and uncle lived near Bohr Bazar. Grief-stricken and exhausted from two days of search were eating their meal at a local eatery, and suddenly, their world was transformed. The radio announcer had just finished announcing the contact information for parents of a lost child!!!
On the third day, Tommy announced with his friendly barking that someone unknown to him was on his way to the front of the house. Those were the young child’s Abba and uncle. As I piece back parts of this story, I recall that what we learnt through the father and uncle was much more sinister than we could have ever imagined. Hints of family feuds; rivalry among brothers for inheritance; stealing the child with intentions of murder, perhaps by the railway tracks, and some more dreadful pieces. My hope is that this child is now a happy grown man with a family of his own, and if he ever happens to read the Native Pakistan Blog, he might just say: “OH THAT’S ME!”
And in gratitude to Tommy: “What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.” Chief Seattle.
Editor’s Note: If you have liked this page, then please share it on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media.
If it is not inconvenient, please do write a brief comment at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”.
Visitors of this website are welcome to contribute their nostalgic articles about Rawalpindi by sending to: email@example.com