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December 11, 2015

A voyage through mists of time launched


December 11, 2015


Rawalpindi -- now referred to as the ‘sister’ city of the capital Islamabad -- was an important garrison town during the British Raj years. It has places like the bazaar ‘Lalkurti,’ which means ‘red shirt’ in English -– a reference to the red coats worn by the British soldiers who were stationed here and it was known as ‘Rawal Pindee.’ It has changed over the years but there are many people still alive who are nostalgic about what the city used to look like in -- quiet; beautiful and of historical significance. One such person is Ali Khan, who has collected old photographs and compiled them into a coffee table book that showcases the city and the lifestyles of the people living in it during a bygone era.

The book, titled ‘Rawul Pindee -- The Raj Years. A voyage through the mists of time,’ was launched at the Islamabad Club under the aegis of MNA and Chief Executive of the Murree Brewery Company, Isphanyar Bhandara, the protagonist behind the venture. The event was well attended by invitees from the sister cities -- many of them with some connection/memories of life in Rawalpindi in the good old days -- as well as a few diplomats. Speakers were Isphanyar Bhandara, Dr Amine Hoti, Ayesha Ali Leghari, Major Sabih, Rehan Afzal and Matt Vaughn and the author, while Romano Karim Yusuf was the MC of the evening.

Welcoming the audience, Romano said Isphanyar often used to say there should be a book about Rawalpindi and its history, but since he was not really geared up for the task, he eventually put him in touch with Ali, who had an interest in the subject and a collection of rare photographs to boot! Some photos have been digitally enhanced to make them clear and true to life.

The first speaker, Major (r) Sabih said he had lived in Rawalpindi since he was three years old and watched it change and grow. “I was a little skeptical about the book,” he said “but when I saw the first copy I realized how informative it was.” Isphanyar said he had lived all his life in Rawalpindi and had a deep attachment for the city. “I still live in a part of the city that has retained some of its old character and I felt that its history and the lifestyle of those days should be documented for the coming generations,” he said. adding that it was the first book on the city. 

Rehan Afzal was happy that the book had seen the light of day and narrated an encapsulated history of the city - it has been inhabited for thousands of years and it is believed that a distinct culture flourished on this plateau as far back as 1000 BC.

The author gave credit to Isphanyar for the motivation behind compiling the book; his charming; cajoling and sometimes and how they had interacted for two years to see the project materialise. A slide show was screened showing some of the images in the book, with him describing the landmarks and the names and lifestyle of the people pictured in them, as well as a few ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of certain places -- for example the post office.

Ayesha Ali Leghari read a few excerpts from a book about the Raj era written by someone who lived here and migrated after partition. Executive Director, Dialogue and Action, Dr Amine Hoti said books like this play an important role in preserving cultural heritage and history both of which are important for understanding and peace among people.

Matt Vaugn, a priest who, I think, has ancestors buried in the Harley Street graveyard also spoke about the importance of such books for historians and descendants of those who lived here long ago. 

Later during refreshments, guests, especially those who recall the ‘golden years’ of the city, appreciated the effort and said it was a good addition to any collection.

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