Category Archives: nature

WHEN Larry Niblett left Lahore for “greener pastures”

WHEN Larry Niblett left Lahore for “greener pastures” in the US, his celebrated father, the “angreez” DIG (Traffic) of Lahore, Mr. Niblett, headed the other way to Australia. The loss of both these “pucca” Lahori characters was immense. But then father and son never did see eye to eye. In the end, they headed in opposite directions.

The senior Niblett we had seen since we started going to school. He was a smart police officer who brooked no nonsense.

I have three enduring images in my mind’s eye of DIG Niblett. The first was when as a school-going student I violated the one-way traffic rule on Lawrence Road. He rode up on his motor bicycle and stopped me. “You must be bloody well Larry’s friend riding your bike up a one-way road, having no lights. I will confiscate your bicycle and send you to jail”.

I trembled in fear at such an outcome. Imagine me, a school student, in jail, my father would kill me. “He bloody well should,” roared the police officer Niblett. “Who is your father?” he asked. I told him so. “Oh, in that case I will give you a bloody good hiding”, he said and got off his motorcycle. One clip round the head was enough to make me walk with my bicycle to school with the tyres having been deflated. I was ashamed of myself. In those days students used to be ashamed if Niblett stopped them. In the evening I told my mother about what had happened and got another good hiding. But she was kind enough not to tell my father, because Mr. Niblett had already phoned him and asked him to “educate the brat”. Oh, I shall not narrate what followed. But then Lahore was like that, one big family where everyone cared.

My next image is as a student in Government College, Lahore. The anti-Ayub troubles had seen a massive crowd surround the Governor’s House. The mad mob was baying for blood and the cry went out to storm the gates and take over the premises. The angry mob attacked. The gate chains were broken and the crowd began to surge in. This had never happened before in the history of the Governor’s House. The police guards had fled. In the middle of the road, behind the gate, stood one man alone … Mr. Niblett, then a DSP. Pistol in hand he shouted over the megaphone Wapas chalay jao varna goli maar doon ga (Leave or I will shoot you). The crowd surged. A shot rang out. The crowd stopped. Then three rapid shots whizzed over the head of the crowd hitting the walls. Panic. The crowd rushed back. More shots followed. Total panic as everyone rushed out. DSP Niblett had saved the Governor’s House alone. What he did with his panic-stricken staff later is also history, like almost making them eat hay out of horse bags. Many years later he told me: “I never shoot to kill. The kids were doing the right thing, but in a wrong way”. He remained a sensitive father to all the students of Lahore, and they feared and yet loved and respected him.

Several years later, his son Larry indulged in an illegality. The DIG was like a man gone mad. He personally arrested his own son, sent him on a three-day remand, ordered that he be given the terrible “channa and one roti” diet as stipulated by law, then appeared before the judge and testified against his son and sent him to jail. Even the judge requested him to soften up. “No way my lord, the son of DIG Niblett would not have the easy way out”. This glorious police officer saw to it that his name was not soiled. “If I had my way, I would lock him up and throw the keys away”, he would say when reminded of the incident. But Larry was his father’s son. He more than made amends, spent his time and apologized to his father. Ask any old police constable or officer in Lahore about DIG Niblett, and you will notice that they still pride themselves in the fact that he was one of them.

Just 30 years ago Lahore had such a healthy mix of religions and people. The Christians of Lahore made up a very lively portion of Lahore. The few remaining Anglo-Indians, or Eurasians as they were originally called, still contribute much more than their numbers. But then thousands have fled the rages of intolerance. But their hearts remain in Lahore. A friend recently informed me that in Melbourne, Australia, on January 5 to 11, 2004, a world gathering of Anglo-Indians is taking place. There they will remember the old Lahore, of fun and joy. I went on the web page that lists people coming, and I was amazed at the names I recollected.

A year senior to us in the St. Anthony’s High School, Lahore, was a pretty girl called Perry Young. She will be there. Then Gomes the boxer of Beadon Road will be there. Peter Snell, of Temple Road, a close friend of my younger brother Karim will be there, too. Imagine all these names of the years gone by. And then Noney Anderson of Garhi Shahu will be there. From Lawrence College will be Duckworth and John D’Souza. From Karachi Grammar will be Rita D’Souza, Dennis Rebeira and John Stringer. From Quetta will be Monte Clements. The list reads on and on. This is going to be the largest collection of Pakistani and Indians of Anglo-Indian origin to collect to remember the land of their birth and origin. It makes one sad to see that the sons and daughters of our soil should have to be chased away by a set of beliefs that have been distorted beyond measure. Yet they remember their homeland with such fondness.

The people of the city of Lahore, both old and new, till very recently considered the inhabitants as a bunch of beautiful flowers, each person, each religion, each sect, complementing the other. Most of the original inhabitants had been lost to the Partition. Yet the city still had a healthy mix of religions and people with immense toleration. My old man called the new arrivals the “47” variety, and with time he scorned their ‘claim mentality’, a purely materialistic approach to life. He often cursed them for not understanding the ethos of Lahore, one of the seven great cities of the old world. There were Christians, Parsis, and even a few Hindus, with a few Sikhs living inside the walled city. The festivals of Eid, Christmas, Nauroze, Basikhi belonged to everyone. The world was love, not hate and suspicion. We have come a long way up a one-way street. Probably against the one-way …. And no DIG Niblett now serves to give us “a clip to bring us to our senses”

.— Majid Sheikh

Saving Lahore…uphill task

A bunch of starry-eyed do-gooders, under the banner of the Lahore Bachao Tehreek, are trying to raise their voice against the further expansion of the Canal Road. Over the years, and under the tender ministrations of chief ministers who for the mischief they have caused in the name of development deserve a spell in some Stalinist re-education centre, the Canal road has been double-widened, then triple-widened and tunnelled under.

Trees have been cut – Pakistani officialdom and Pakistanis generally nursing some kind of a primeval grudge against trees…if they see one standing honour is not satisfied unless it is pulled down – and an iron railing has been put up, of no use whatsoever and on the wrong side of the footpath. The visionary behind this planning deserves a prize.

Yet Punjab officialdom, and for that matter the far-seeing administration of the Khadim-e-Aala – they no longer even smile when this title is used, such being the prevalent sense of humour – are resolved to vandalise the Canal thoroughfare further. They want to ‘improve’ the underpasses and create some U-turns, as if U-turning was not already a national art. If memory serves, a sum of over eight billion rupees is set aside in this year’s provincial budget for this purpose.
Continue reading

Flood Situation in Punjab: Police rescue 6,630 flood-tossed people

 

A view of houses surrounded by flood water in Rana Town area of Lahore.— Photo by APP

A view of houses surrounded by flood water in Rana Town area of Lahore.— Photo by APP

LAHORE: As many as 7,922 policemen across Punjab have so far evacuated 6,630 flood-hit people, including 29 families of Rahim Yar Khan district, 25 of Mandi Bahauddin and 20 of Chiniot.

According to a handout issued on Sunday, boats, trolleys and various vehicles are being used for relief activities by police teams who also rescued 5,203 cattle along with appurtenance of the affected people.

Similarly, police also provided 3,493 mud bags to the local administration.

In Gujranwala region, up to 3,102 persons and 1,904 cattle have so far been evacuated by police.

Mandi Bahauddin District Police Officer Syed Junaid Arshad himself rescued a three-day-old baby girl by driving a boat in Qadirabad area of the Chenab river.

As many as 2,530 traffic policemen have also been deputed to ensure vehicular movement in the affected areas.

Continue reading

Midsummer nightmares

Syed Rizwan Mahboob spins a magical yarn about his childhood in Lahore’s Chauburji

It was sweltering in early June when not a single leaf stirred. Teenage students were back from school and the more enterprising of them were already out of their homes after a quick meal. Their combined focus was a medium sized ground somewhere in old Lahore which had many mango, Beri, Neem, Sumbul and Labernum trees. The ground was located at the confluence of several narrow streets in a government colony, populated by clerks and lower-grade government employees.

As soon as troops of urchins reached the ground, there was a rush of activity, as if life had been injected into a drab landscape painting. Several doors around the central ground opened and closed in quick succession with colourful dupattas withdrawn in haste. From around these doors would emerge several good-looking young lads, with bright handkerchiefs around their necks, betokening the early, heady days of first love.

The ground, for the next few hours, was to be the stage for a string of events including fights among the strapping lads for the acquisition of sour ambis (unripe mangoes downed with the skilful use of catapults) and garlands (made from streamers of bright yellow Labernum flowers), both of which were meant to be presented to the coy owners of fluttering dupattas later in the evening. Continue reading

Lawrence Gardens, Lahore

Posted by Raza Rumi –
I visited the Lawrence Gardens in August and managed to take a few pictures.
The cricket Pavillion
Lawrence Garden Memories, Lahore
The relaxing policmen

Lawrence Garden Memories, Lahore

Continue reading

My Amaltas tree

Raza Rumi

I grew up watching an Amaltas (Cassia fistula) grow in our side-garden in Lahore. Each spring would bring flowers on the creepers and shortly thereafter the Amaltas would start blooming with yellow flowers setting fire to the little garden adjacent to my room. Lahore’s roads would also glow in the summer adding much zest to a loveable, hot summer. Heat would make one yearn for the rains. So the cycle of seasons would continue with Amaltas at the centre of transitions and unforgettable for the colour and unfathomable beauty…

In Dhaka, Delhi and so many South Asian cities I have watched Amaltas trees in full bloom. The picture above (taken in Islamabad by a newspaper correspondent) today brought back all those muddled memories. Luckily, where I live now, Amalatas exists with a different local name.

Comforting, like an old acquaintance, it is still there in my life. It has not abandoned me.

More on the Amaltas tree, its properties…

Famous for its laxative properties, amaltas (botanical name — Cassia fistula, Sanskrit name — aragvadha or chaturangula) is a medium-sized tree, which is also the favourite roadside tree of the planners. In full bloom in the summer, amaltas is conspicuous by its bright yellow flowers and long cylindrical fruits. Continue reading