Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Chapter from my upcoming Book: I was Born at Taxila

Upright Opinion

March 11, 2017

Lawrence College Ghora Gali in the Hindsight-First Part

By Saeed Qureshi

I served as a teacher in Lawrence College for seven years with two principals namely Lt Col(R) A. Hamid Ibrahim (1966–1973) and Brig.(R) Mohammad Rafiq (1973–1977). In the beginning, I was given a temporary ad-hoc job for three months and it terminated when the college closed for the winter vacations. The job was later advertised and I was also invited for an interview. The interview took place at Army library Rawalpindi. I was selected and was offered a permanent job. I was then hardly 25 years of age. In the beginning, because of my age, the students and many residents thought I was one of the students in the senior school.

I was the house master of Tipu house. The house worked very hard in games and literary competitions and even in behavior and thus was declared outstanding. A reception was held at the Preparatory school to celebrate that joyful occasion. It was participated by both the headmaster Mr. Muhammad Munir and the college principal Lt. Col(Retd) Ibrahim.

Mr. Munir was a thorough professional and a true academician. He hailed from the city of Sialkot and had been in the college for many years. A kind and courteous person as he was, he would not speak a harsh word to anyone in the staff meetings. He had run the preparatory school in the finest British traditions and was always there to help and guide the erring staff members as well as the new entrants as to how to conduct themselves. He would be dressed up properly and sit in his office facing the main playground and looking across the junior school that was about a furlong from the Preparatory schools building. At his house, we were invited several times for a tea party or dinner. 

Mr. Munir was a chronic patient of the diabetes and would inject himself insulin during those times when the medical knowledge and treatment was at not at an advanced level as it is in the present times. He was an exceptionally tolerant person. Even his notes of warning or explanation to someone would be worded softly and in a very civilized diction.

In the subsequent times, I remained unaware and practically cut-off from going back to the college and know where my former colleagues. I had no information as to when Mr. Munir retired and who replaced him. But he had two very elegant sons who were also the students at Lawrence college. One was Mr. Basir who later rose to the high positions in accounts. His younger brother Naeem must have also been well settled in his career.

The unmarried teachers were given small cubicles that were attached to the students’ dormitories. There were a few residences which were allotted to the married teachers. Thus, one had to wait till someone was retired or moved out of the college. I lived in a bachelor accommodation consenting of two rooms: one as the bed room and the other sitting room.  Later When I married in 1972 I was allotted full-fledged house-  The house given to me was a nice self-contained house vacated by one of the teachers Zakir Hussain who was appointed as the Director General of Pakistan Sports Board.

In my time the faculty members numbering 32 or more were content with their residential conditions. It was like an extended family that would meet from time to time in such gatherings as farewell to a passing out class or the victory celebration by a house coming on top in all the vents from games to social presentations such a stage plays, Mushairas and other literary or game competitions.

In the evening, some of the staff members would gather in the college club to play the card game of bridge and would stay till late at night. Occasionally the principal Col Ibrahim would also participate and that would add to the dignity and glamor of the occasion. There were some excellent and expert plays of bridge who would seldom lose. One was late Maujood Khan from district Jhelum. The other teacher was Mr. Ajmal who prior to joining the preparatory section of the college had served as a teacher in the Middle East.

The supervisor of the preparatory school kitchen was Ghazan Khan. He was a retired subedar from the Pakistan army. He was an exceedingly lively and jolly good man with infinite capacity to talk injected with jokes and anecdotes from his military tenure. He was one of the most amiable person on the estate. He lived alone and was a skinny individual with a set of principles and habits that he would strictly follow and would expect others to follow. He was a still in the mindset of military discipline an even walk like a soldier.

He was friendly to everyone and was honest and ethical to the hilt. He was married but would visit his home town very rarely. During his lively and animated conversation, he would emit high sounding laughers that would warm up others’ hearts. Thus, a phase of exchange of jokes would follow and Mr. Ghazan Khan would finally excel. He had a son who was quite brilliant and held a post of eminence in Islamabad.

He had countless episodes to tell saved and preserved in his mind. He was a thoroughly moralist person and would never compromise on principles. Himself being the caterer with all kind of food delicacies and assortment of dishes, he would himself eat very little. He was kind yet firm with his kitchen staff that comprised mostly of the local people. One may call him an idealist as he would expect of teachers to be morally of very dignified caliber even during the conversations and mutual discussions. H would detest those who would eat voraciously and talk about small material gains in life.

At night, occasionally we would visit him and despite already gone into bed and ready to sleep, he would prepare green tea for us at that time of late night. Of the teachers that were knit together as close friends were Maulvi Saeed, Mr. Ajmal, Zakir Hussain Syed, Mr. Muhammad Hussain, Maojud Khan and myself.

From among us one of the longer serving staff members was Mr. Titus. He was a devout Christian by faith: He was undoubtedly, a gentleman by virtue with his mild temperament. Mr. Titus was living on the premises with his gracious wife and two sons. I was immensely impressed by the soft-spoken and mild disposition of Mr. Titus. When I would go to his house, his wife would serve tea and potatoes chips that she was an expert in making.

At weekends, I would to go to the plains to see my family in Wah Cantt. The journey was divided into several phases. From college, I would traverse a downward distance to reach the main road at Bansra Gali. From the roadside bus stop I would catch a bus that would take me to Rawalpindi.

From Rawalpindi I, would board another bus to travel another 30 miles to reach my destination in Wah Cantonment. Wah also known as Wah Ordnance Factories. From there another walk for 10 minutes and I would be with my family of three brothers and my mother. It was primarily for my mother that I would spend my weekends in Wah Cantonment.

On one occasion while returning to the college it became dark and no other individual was to be seen walking up or down on the detour road from the bus stop to the college. I had to climb up the winding link road which had seven bends. The atmosphere was totally scary. I started my ascending journey by taking long steps. When I reached in the middle of the road I saw from distance several red sparkling eyes. With a plethora of stories about spooks, evil spirits in my mind, I was indescribably frightened and was fearing some hidden creature pouncing upon me. However, I kept drawing near as even returning was futile

I kept getting closer to the glittering red spots in that pitch darkness. As I was walking I had the morbid fear of being attacked by either a wild animal like a tiger or some evil force. All of a sudden I saw that it was a cluster of cows that were left by the owner for overnight grazing. One can imagine the cool relief that had overtaken me. In a moment of fuzzy mindset, it was altogether a different scenario and I was certainly safe from the predators that could have been there either humans or wild animals or even a wicked creature.

In 1973 I was selected as a Third Secretary in the Pakistan Foreign Service. I had to, therefore, say goodbye to that marvelous friends and most agreeable place from where I started my career. After joining the Foreign Office, I went into an unending flurry of activities, beginning with our training at the Pakistan Administrative Staff College Lahore to my posting as a diplomat abroad.

Lawrence College was founded in 1860 during the British rule of the Indian subcontinent that continued between 1858 and 1947. It was named after Major General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence. It was on the recommendation of General Montgomery that four military-style asylums were established in the Indian subcontinent for the sons and daughters of the British soldiers. Of four such asylums, known as Lawrence Military Asylums, one is the Lawrence College Ghora Gali.

Lawrence College primarily caters for the children of the affluent and elitist classes (feudal, aristocratic, and military) of Pakistan. From military asylum, it was renamed as Lawrence College. It is a public educational institution cum boarding situated near panoramic Murree Hills at a height of about 6400 ft. Its distance from the nearest city in plains the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad is about 35 miles. To be continued

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