The Mall and Kim

By Majid Sheikh

Dawn June 03, 2006

‘HE trotted off to the open shop of a kunjri, a low caste vegetable seller, which lay opposite the belt tramway line down the Motee Bazaar. She knew Kim of old’. This is how Rudyard Kipling described the way Kim took the Lama through the Lahore of old to meet an acquaintance.

Kim goes on to inform the woman that the “Sahib in the Wonder House has talked to him like a brother” and that was enough of a recommendation for him to manage to skimp off her. Together, Kim and the Lama, ate in the shadows of the Zam-Zammah. He then went off to the tobacco-seller to ‘beg a rank cigar that they sell to students of the Punjab University who copy English customs’. In a way things have changed, but then things have changed so little. My own association with the Museum and the Punjab University and the ‘Zam-Zammah’ in the 1970s is just as sweet as was that of Rudyard Kipling 150 years earlier when the Big Game was unfolding.

This is where I must bring in my senior mentor and colleague, Rafiq Dogar, for his interest in the history of the Lahore of old and the Lahore of new is so refreshing. Mr Dogar is a well-known Urdu writer and journalist who needs no introduction. He provided me with the original, and probably the very first, edition of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Kim’, and with it a note describing the changes made by the author, or the printer, in the second edition. The latter do not have prints of paintings by Kipling senior in the book, those being titled ‘The Lama’, ‘Mahbub Ali’, ‘The Ressaldar’, ‘The Road’ and ‘Kim and the letter-writer’. They are delightful pieces, and two of them, are still in the possession of the Lahore Museum. Kipling senior headed the Lahore Museum and was an artist of considerable standing in Lahore. Sadly, the later editions omitted the five paintings.

But then other changes were also brought about. For example in the opening poem in Chapter II, the words “man and beast” have been changed to read “creed nor priest”. Then there are a number of other changes, all significant in the meaning of what was being said. Rafiq Dogar is a stickler of a researcher, and he has an immense library on Lahore. His own book ‘Moghlani Begum’ is immensely readable, and a genuine original research that one is.

But in this piece one wanted to talk about the ‘Direct Road to Mian Mir, starting from where the Zam-Zammah now stands. A description of the Mall by Col Goulding is interesting. Aligned for the first time in 1851 by Lt-Col Napiers, the Civil Engineer, and described as ‘the direct road from Anarkali to Mian Mir’, two estimates for its construction were submitted. One for Rs12,544/- with ‘kankar’ and a brick underlay, the second for Rs10,428/- with ‘kankar’ only. The Government of India wanted the former as they thought that in the future The Mall would be a “great thoroughfare”, but they agreed with Napier and went for the latter.

Sir Ganga Ram was the executive engineer incharge, and it was undertaken under the supervision of Mr DuCane Smythe, chief engineer, who in turn was supervised by Sir Charles Rivaz, the Lt Governor of the Punjab. Rivaz was a stickler of a man who kept patrolling The Mall on his horse. Every time the alignment came across a tree, he would examine it and if he felt that the tree was more important than the road, he would order the alignment to be “slightly changed”. The entire strip from where today is the Lower Mall starts opposite the Postmaster General’s Office, pass the National College of Arts, the Lahore Museum and past the GPO, we notice The Mall taking twists and turns, all very delightful, as it begins to straighten out after crossing the GPO.

All these twists and turns is where the Anarkali Cantonment of old was and beyond were the ‘open plains right up to Mian Mir’. All these twists and turns are because of Sir Charles Rivaz, for development, eve then, had to include all the existing trees. It would be interesting if a small “Napier on his horse” statue is erected as a mark of respect to the very old trees of Lahore in that area.

For the record, it would be interesting to inform that the Upper Mall, in the old records, appears as ‘Lawrence Road’, at least on the maps previous to the ones released in 1876. The area between Anarkali and the Governor’s House was described as ‘Donald Town’ in commemoration of Sir Donald McLeod, the Lt Governor. With time the word Donald disappeared and only McLoed Road remains, today embedded in the memory of every Lahori, even though its name has been changed twice before.

The Lower Mall has a beautiful garden, known originally was the Bandstand Garden. It then acquired the name Gol Bagh to reflect its shape. Then Mr Z.A. Bhutto named it, unofficially as Nasser Bagh, for it only become official. We hear it has been renamed again. To Lahoris it will remain as Gol Bagh, the place Nawaz Sharif ran with Z.A. Bhutto on his shoulders in the Ayub Khan days, after the government broke up his public meeting. Probably Bhutto on Sharif’s shoulders would make an interesting statue for Gol Bagh.

The stories about The Mall are endless. For example the current Egerton Road was originally known as ‘Racket Court Road’. The story goes like this. The original Punjab Club for the ruling bureaucrats, all Europeans, was where today is the Punjab Administrative Staff College, opposite the PC Hotel of today. Behind. Its tennis courts were at the back, and the short road to the courts was a track that is today’s Egerton Road. It was, therefore, called the Racket Court Road.

Also where today stand the Ganga Ram buildings on The Mall was Mr Davison’s carriage workshop. This was a set of workshops that manufactured the latest two-horse Hackney carriages, also then called Victoria’s. It might amaze many that some of the famous Victoria carriage in Karachi were originally made in Lahore and taken by river cargo. But then changes soon began to overtake these old dwellings on The Mall. The story of the evolution of The Mall is as delightful as the stories one reads and hears about old Lahore. It will take many a researcher like Rafiq Dogar to write about the history we all love to forget about. But then if walls have ears, so do the old trees of The Mall have stories to tell.

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