By Shoaib Hashmi
nothing sacred any more? Is there no respect left
for the glorious past? Now the Municipality has
announced that those wonderful relics of my forefathers,
the horse-troughs of Lahore are redundant and are
to be demolished and relegated to the dust! Vandals
and Visigoths of yore, come back, all is forgiven.
We have fallen on harder times.
We said nothing when they dug up the Shalamar Gardens,
or vandalized the Fort for their own vanity; because
the Moghuls were foreign invaders from Ferghana,
and who cares about their legacy. But the horse-troughs
are too close to the heart, and attacking them is
playing with emotions; just because they haven't
made it to the 'Protected Monuments' list and the
conservation society doesn't give a darn.
Actually I am not even sure you know what a trough
looks like, so let me tell you. These were stone
tubs built all over town, where passing horses could
get a drink of water. There was a tall tombstone
like structure at one end with a 'Committee Ka Nalka',
which supplied the water, and where the coachmen
could drink too. And nearby housewives used them
for their washing. And each one was distinguished
by the legend, carved in the stone, 'SPCA'.
That was the 'Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals', which the Brits took with them wherever
they went, along with cricket and their Mem Sahibs.
There was also a 'Society' for Children, but unlike
Oliver Twist and other Victorian Englishmen, we
are not known for our mistreatment of kids, so the
'Society' was defunct from the start.
And there was too the 'Salvation Army' which went
around saving whole souls. They had resplendent
uniforms of field-gray, and were a familiar sight
standing on street corners with their brass tubas
playing lilting Scottish tunes. Their chiefs were
entitled to style themselves 'Generals', and they
did. All of them were quintessentially English institutions
of a bygone era.
The SPCA even had its own paramilitary police force.
They had faded khaki uniforms and berets, and their
weapon of choice as a cane with a metal head, and
believe it or not, they were called 'Berehmee Wallahs'!
Because there mandate was to check 'Tongas' who
had loaded too many passengers for the horses good,
or coachmen who wielded the whip too vigorously.
Lahore was chockfull of tongas and horses then.
It was the normal mode of public transport, and
you could either hire one to take you wherever,
which was called 'Salam' or 'Whole'; or you could
wait for one passing by and announcing his destination
loudly, and hitch a ride for a share of the fare,
and that was called 'Savaree'.
There were too many private horses for the carriages,
or 'Buggees', of the prosperous. The smaller ones
were called 'Fittens' which was the local version
of the English 'Phaeton', and the larger ones were
'Victorias' named after the Queen. These had a high,
and wide, seat right in front for the coachman and
his assistant, and also a small jump seat right
at the back for another attendant. And this, if
empty, was pure temptation if you were a runny nosed
kid standing by the roadside if one passed. Only
problem was that the coachmen, a nasty breed, always
had a long whip which, properly swished could give
you a lousy welt for your stolen ride.
While on the subject of legacies, Sunita the lovely
daughter of the Anluck family of Lahore has been
here looking for hers. The grandfather Ram Lal,
and father Milk Raj are no more, and Sunita has
all the heart, and little other remembrance of her
Only one picture of her parents, taken by 'Hellam
Bros'. who were obviously photographers of note
because they had photographic paper embossed with
the legend; and the memory that they built and started
the first plant making sewing machines in Lahore
back in the forties. There were two known brands
of sewing machines then 'Singer' and the lesser-known
'Pfaff' which was pronounced 'Puff'.
And so, if there is an oldster still living who
remembers anything of the family, or the photographers,
or anything, he can tell us and do his bit for our
new found love affair with the neighbors. For myself,
I did my bit by remembering the ancient song of
"Yeh who Puff hai keh shuhrat jiss ki hai saray
Bani hai Germanee kay sab say a'aala karkhanay main"!
There! (Courtesy The News)