By Masood Hasan (NEWS)
Here’s to another lost cause in the land of great lost causes – Birdwood Barracks, 22 acres of prime land right in the middle of the city of Lahore and till recently home to the armed forces. The Ministry of Defence, acting more like the Ministry of Offence, has had the ancient barracks pulled down, the rubble carted away leaving ugly mounds where once the barracks stood, the bugles sounded and young muscular “jawans” came out in neat file formation, running in rhythmic tempo as if with one step. Tenders have been duly floated, land values dutifully worked out and auction dates determined. The Ministry of Defence is pressing ahead to make another sale to the highest bidders.
Waris Road, on which Birdwood Barracks stood for so many years from the time of the British, this was quite a road at one time – not as much for the clear pond at the head of the road where well-fed fish swam contentedly but for the folk of genteel disposition who lived here. It was on this road, where Sandy Rollo the great portrait master photographer was seen rowing a boat during one of the great floods that sent the waters of the Ravi rushing headlong over the “Bunds,” across the great length of Ravi Road, past the Badshahi Mosque and down across Bhatti into the lower and then the upper reaches of The Mall and well into localities such as Waris Road, the road that linked Lahore’s Queens Road with Jail Road, past the famous girls’ hostel of Fatima Jinnah Medical College. Sandy Rollo was to Lahore what Karsh was to Ottawa. As he rowed past, hailing all his many friends who lived here, the gasping residents wondered. A boat on Waris Road? What next and what madness had descended on Sandy? More importantly where did he get that boat?
But Sandy Rollo was not a Waris Road resident, as were the Bhandaras, whose stately home, surrounded by huge shady trees and green gardens, was a cultural melting pot and where Bapsi Sidhwa first began to learn about the curious relationships that alter lives and change courses. Mrs Najmuddin, “Mrs Najj” to all who loved this wonderful and warm lady, the woman in whose memory the Najmuddin Drama Society still lives on in Kinnaird though it is a mere shadow of what it used to be, like the college that’s fallen into wrong hands, lived on Waris Road all her life. There was Theo Phailbus, a gentleman and collector of all things to do with movies, movie stars and the occult, and a little further up, the Zaidi clan, the family of portrait photographers who live on through the artistic creations of Shahid Zaidi, still capturing young brides and their husbands in his inimitable way. Continue reading