The 'Buggee' Days
By Shoaib Hashmi

Is 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.
Post Script!
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 Lahoree heritage.
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 their machine:
"Yeh who Puff hai keh shuhrat jiss ki hai saray zamanat main,
Bani hai Germanee kay sab say a'aala karkhanay main"! There! (Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.