Arjan Dev Majboor

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An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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Lahore Prior to 1945

By Arjan Dev Majboor

Lahore was the heart throb of northern India before the partition of the country. It was a political center as it was also a seat of learning for all those of us from Kashmir who had to go in for higher education. I feel myself fortunate for having been born in undivided India and availed the opportunity of having passed my matriculation from Punjab University. Lahore in those days was connected with J&K, two ways, one way was VIA Jammu railway line and second through Jehlum Valley road, wherefrom one boarded a bus from Srinagar to Rawalpindi and from Rawalpindi one had to take train to Lahore. Jammu in those days used to be a small city inhabited by nearly fifty thousand people. For going to Lahore one had to take a train to Wazirabad via Sialkot and from there one had to board the Frontier Mail for Lahore.

In comparison to the railway line the Jehlum Valley road was an easier journey where one had to board a bus plied by ‘Allied Chiragdin and sons’ to Rawalpindi. This company plied nearly ten buses each, everyday, for Jammu and Rawalpindi. While going via the Jehlum Valley road one had to pass through Baramulla and Kohala. This was a smooth road except near Uri and Chinari, where it passed over hills full of fur trees. The road “was dotted by a series of Tabas who specialized in serving ‘Zag Batta’ (RED RICE) and cheese. As soon as one crossed the Kohala Bridge one could clearly see the Sunny Bank a place in the foot of Murri Mountains which was quite popular with English people. The Kohala Bridge in those days used to be a small bridge over Jehlum River which hardly was 10 to 15 meters in length. The city of Muzaffarabad could clearly be seen from here.

My first trip to Lahore materialized via Jammu in 1943. For this journey, which for me was quite momentous at that time, I boarded a bus at Bijbehara, which charged me a fare of Rupee one and twelve annas right unto Jammu. Those days Banihal tunnel used to be at the top of the Banihal pass, and it took us nearly five hours to reach Banihal town from Lower Munda. For an eighteen year old boy wearing a turban, a double breast coat and pajama it was the first journey outside his home. Having reached Banihal quite late in the day, we were obliged to stay here for the night. Recollecting today, I feel that this journey was undertaken at a very good time, for the people despite being very poor were miles away from crime and violence which are the representatives of our times now. My co-passengers, whom I initially took for Hindus were infact Muslim silversmiths from Punjab, who used to come to valley for their work and would move back to their places just before valley was engulfed by winter. These silversmiths were very popular in our countryside for the silver ornaments they made for our poor peasants. I just spent this night amongst these co-passengers and was quite alive to guard ten Queen Victoria silver coins of a rupee each, which was all I was carrying with me in my journey. My meager diet of Paronthas which my mother and my Auntie had given to me for consumption during the journey, in the process of my guard remained unconsumed. On reaching Jammu, I was fortunately guided by a good humanbeing who advised me to go direct to the Railway station for staying overnight, which saved my some money, which otherwise I would have spent on hotel accommodation. Railway station across river Tawi was reachable by a Tonga. I stayed at the station and next day early morning at about 5.30 a.m. I boarded a train for Lahore. There were not many passengers and I had no difficulty in obtaining a ticket. My co-passengers in the train advised me to come down at Wazirabad, wherefrom I had to board ‘Frontier Mail’. Any how quite tense I reached Wazirabad, but my forward movement from here was also an experience. Here at the Wazirabad station thousands of people were waiting for the train. Sight of such a large crowd was quite frightening to a village boy who had for the first time ventured out of his home and peaceful place. But somehow here also I was helped by a Coolie who just for an eight annas amount made my way into the train possible. He virtually managed to throw me into the Train through a window. In the train I remained standing for a long time, hereafter some passengers made some way for a standing boy possibly because of compassion.

 

In this way I reached Lahore station, wherefrom I found my way to Guru Dutt Bhawan on Ravi road. Here I was greeted by my friend Sh S.N.Bhat Haleem, who at that time was a student of ‘Dayanand Vidyalaya’. In his company I was quite happy for I had the satisfaction of having braved a big journey of my time all alone. Sh Haleem gave me a Kurta and payjama which I duly wore after a refreshing bath. Thereafter I along with Haleem found my way into a nearby Taba for a hearty meal of two tandori roties, some daal and pickle, for which I had to pay an amount of two annas. After this meal I found my way to a cloth merchant from whom I purchased a fresh Kurta payjama for an amount of Rupees 3.50, the cloth was got duly stitched from a tailor for an amount of four annas. Lahore though with a glorious past, was an old fashioned city, which had many beautiful arches and gates made of Bricks, and these gates were quite decorated with beautiful and artistic engraved images of Bulbuls which for a moment seemed to me alive. The inner city was mostly choked, for there were not many lanes and by lanes. The houses were clustered together and did not leave any room for light which usually would come from glass roofs at the upper storey .Numerous houses existed in ‘Wachoowali’ Mohalla. In some other places like Krishna nagar the houses had large windows and the houses were located in proper compounds.

The city of course had big Bazars and markets like Anarkali market which made brisk business and wore festive look in the evenings . These bazaars were full of customers both local and foreign. Students and the people like us who lacked purchasing power were obliged to witness all these trading and business activities from a distance. Lord Mayo college was the most well known college those days, and Mall Road the most sought after fashionable place where the foreigners were living and enjoying. Lahore of those days was a political centre and as such a variety of newspapers would reach this place from all parts of India. I could easily see many of them like The Tribune, The Amrit Bazar Patrika, The daily Milap (urdu), The daily Partap(urdu), Zamindar, Illustrated weekly, Vishal Bharat, Hans(hindi), and host of other papers and journals. It is quite amusing to know that Hindi that time was considered a Lady’s language, because of the fact that it was Urdu that was generally in vogue. During my stay in Lahore I had the privilege of visiting Sh Khushal Chand Khursand who was editor and owner of Mialp.He was a simple man wearing dhoti and kurtaa and a waist coat, he generally wore a turban on his head. It was said about him that he would generally dictate editorial to his clerk while taking a stroll in his lawns. Mahasha Krishen was the owner and editor of The Daily Partap. These two papers in particular were quite popular in northern India including Kashmir. It was a time of great upheavals, Indias freedom movement was maturing into a mass movement with Indian population having split vertically on religious basis. The city was usually visited by big leaders of the day like Ali Mohd Jinnah, Pandit Nehru and others. I had the chance of hearing Jinnah who advocated for partition of India. He was a tall leader with a black Achkan and a cap on his head. I had also the chance of hearing Nawabyar Jang, a leader from Hyderabad, who spoke to a spell bound audience in Urdu.

I also heard a communist leader, BPL Bedi who subsequently drafted Naya Kashmir Programme for National Conference. Lahore of those days provided employment to poor Kashmiri farmers who generally would come to the city during winter and earn their living. Such labourers would generally work in rice mills of the city and they would feel extremely happy on meeting us. The spirit of brotherhood was a common affair and as such people would not mind being Hindu or Muslim. People of all faiths would go out to hear various leaders, little knowing what was cooking up in the political circles. Soon their throats were slit and brother was made enemy of his brother. People did not know that a new word called ‘Refugee’ would soon thunder and resound throughout the length and breadth of India.

This legacy left behind by the British rulers still is sending down tremors in our spine and unfortunately we have not come out of the communal hatred generated in those eventful days, which these political leaders and their masters very carefully planted in to the Indian soil. Lahore being a central place was soon taken over by the frenzy and after our departure from the place we heard that a naked inhuman and uncivilized dance was staged near Model Town, a colony built to be modern but descended into the uncivilized state. Prior to this I never had heard of riots, so we left Lahore for the rioters and took to our motherland Kashmir which till then was quite peaceful. Once in Kashmir I once again breathed fresh air of peace and continued to live in my native motherland, unmindful of the fact that after more than a half century the curse of migration will similarly befall me also and turn me into a refugee, at this last stage of life.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

           

 

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