Early last evening I took a call from Arthur Jones (L 43-48) who lives in Cambridge to say watch BBC2 at 8 pm & follow Michael Portillo – Indian Railways journey – Amritsar to Shimla.
Very nostalgic as both Arthur & I used to make the journey from Lahore (now Pakistan) along the same route.
Rehearsing through the programme starting at the Golden Temple at once brings to mind, on a visit to Indiaaah, how kindly obliging OC Santosh Singh in Amritsar arranged for Napinder Singh (C 43-50) & I to visit the beautiful Temple & later to watch the Tamasha at the Border Gates at Wahga Wahga.
Then a day or so later to be joined with Nappy’s late wife Parvesh spending the afternoon & lunch with Sukinder Singh’s Sister in Amritsar – onto Ludianah stopping to have lunch at a well known Dubba (restaurant).
That Railway line from Kalka to Simla rests in each BCS schoolboy’s memory forever – through Barog tunnel and for me the Ghurka band playing when the Sesquicentennial Special pulled in and stopped for a puri-tac lunch & on to Simla.
Finally, Portillo talking with OC Rajah Bashin who’s legendary knowledge of the town’s history filled me with proud pleasure. Reminded me once again of Old Cottonian hospitality when Rajah invited Maggie & me to a late reception for the wedding of his niece in the basement banqueting hall of the famous Gaiety Theatre.
Memories – memories how can any Ole boy forget?
Peter Stringer (Lefroy 43-47)
(click for larger view)
Humayun Khan was born in 1932 to a Pashto-Hindko speaking family in Abbottabad, Hazara Division in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). His father was a District and Sessions Judge at the judicial commissioner’s court in NWFP, which is now known as the Peshawar High Court, and his mother was a homemaker. Mr. Khan’s paternal family is from the Yousafzai Clan, hailing from the village of Amazogray in Mardan. They were landlords with ownership of over two hundred acres of lands in the village that depended on wells and rainwater irrigation systems for harvesting wheat. Mr. Khan’s maternal ancestors hail from Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar. They were traders engaged in businesses with merchants from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Mr. Khan spent his early years of upbringing in Peshawar with two elder brothers and two younger sisters, and at age seven, he was sent to boarding school at Murree where he studied for two years. In 1941, he was enrolled at the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla where he studied until Partition. Recalling life at the boarding school, Mr. Khan says that there were about two hundred boys from all faiths and backgrounds. “It was considered one of the best public schools. There was a great emphasis on teachings of morals and ethics like fair-play, being truthful, and self-sufficiency. I was always a good student and used to be first in the class,” recounts Mr. Khan. He was also an avid cricket player and competed on the school’s team. “We’d study in school for nine months out of the year and then be with our families. There was no such thing as discrimination in our school. We were never looked upon each other as anything but fellow classmates,” Mr. Khan recalls.
Speaking of his experiences at home during the holidays, Mr. Khan mentions that he enjoyed the traditional Peshawari way of life, including the food bazaars and the hujra (courtyard). “It used to be a romantic life. We would dine at my grandmother’s house, where she used to have these stoves on the ground. She would sit on a low stool all day and cook for the entire family. We never used knives or forks on the table,” he says. Mr. Khan spoke Pashto and Hindko at home.
At the time of Partition, Mr. Khan was at school in Shimla. “On June 3, 1947, all the senior boys were invited to the house of the senior master to listen to the broadcast on the radio, where Jinnah, Nehru and Baldev Singh spoke. We were so out of touch with reality there — we really didn’t take much interest in it. When the trouble started we remained unaware of it. We heard about riots in Shimla and Punjab but our political knowledge was heavily limited inside the school,” Mr. Khan remembers.
In early October of 1947, Mountbatten visited Shimla and spent one day at the Bishop Cotton School, as Mr. Khan remembers. “At lunch, the headmaster told him that he had 40 ‘odd’ boys who ought to be in Pakistan. Mountbatten advised to let those boys stay until they complete their studies. However, our parents in Pakistan were extremely worried. Some of them, including mine, were in powerful positions. They approached the then-acting governor of NWFP and urged them to get their children back from Shimla,” Mr. Khan says. In late October, the governor arranged a special convoy comprising of trucks under the supervision of Gurkhas to pick up the boys from Shimla. “We were loaded onto the trucks and taken to the Ambala Cantonment where we spent the night in barracks. The next day, a Dakota airplane was arranged by the governor to pick us from Ambala from where we flew to Lahore, and then Karachi. Some of the boys had families in Lahore and they were reunited with them. Some of them were flown to Karachi. There were seven of us from Peshawar, and we were dropped off at the Lahore airport and picked up by Mr. Leghari, the Commissioner for Refugees.”
Mr. Khan and the other boys stayed at the commissioner’s home for two days and slowly started to understand what was happening. “We didn’t initially realize the danger we faced because everything had always gone so smoothly for us, in our state of isolation. Two of Mr. Leghari’s sisters, who were students at the Auckland Girls High School in Shimla, had also travelled to Lahore, but by car. They had told him in our presence what they had seen on the road — the refugees and the violence. That was my very first impression of what was going on outside the walls of our school,” Mr. Khan recalls.
From Lahore, Mr. Khan and the other boys boarded on a train procured by the commissioner for refugees, and Mr. Khan was eventually reunited with his family at the Peshawar railway station.
“The clashes in Peshawar had died down by the time we arrived. My mother had very close relations with Hindu families. We used to virtually live at each other’s houses. My mother’s best friend was a Hindu lady. When I returned to Peshawar, I found out that they were all gone but had left their valuables — cars, furniture and carpets — with us,” Mr Khan recalls. “Some of the families managed to send representatives to Peshawar from India after Partition, so we were able to give them the belongings. Unfortunately, we’d later heard that these folks were looted at the border,” he says.
Sharing his observations on post-Partition life in Peshawar, Mr. Khan says that behavior patterns of the middle class remained very “English” for several years after their departure. “Even though there were very few Englishman left, the clubs and the cinemas kept going for several years after Partition and so did the civil structures — only now they were managed by Pakistani posts. We didn’t really find much of a difference in life. The roads and neighborhoods were safe. As boys, we used to go to the cinemas on bicycles at night. We did not live in any fear of being harmed,” Mr. Khan says.
Mr. Khan continued studying for his bachelor’s degree at Lawrence College, and then at the Edwardes College in Peshawar for one year. In 1950, Mr. Khan went on to study economics and law in the Trinity College in Cambridge, graduating with honors in 1953. His degree was later converted into a master’s degree, and in 1954, Mr. Khan joined the Lincoln’s Inn and became a barrister of law. “I had dreams of being a successful lawyer but my complete lack of knowledge of reading legal documents in Urdu held me back,” he says. “At the Bishop Cotton School, we were only taught lower Urdu [basic alphabets and conversational phrases].”
In 1955, Mr. Khan became an officer with the Central Superior Services of Pakistan for the Frontier Cadre and offered his services for seventeen years in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [Waziristan and Malakand]. After 1971, Mr. Khan, secretary for the North West Frontier Provinces government at the time, was transferred to the foreign services office where he served for another eighteen years, beginning from his posting in Soviet Russia. In 1984, Mr. Khan was sent to India as the Pakistani High Commissioner. “Apart from Shimla, I’d never known India. This was my first chance to discover the country,” he says. He recounts his tenure in India to be the most difficult in the midst of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and the resulting violence.
In 1961, Mr. Khan married Munawar Humayun Khan. (Read her story here: http://on.fb.me/21p1DGn They have three daughters. Sharing his thoughts, Mr. Khan offers, “We should…focus on the politics of reconciliation, instead of confrontation.”
This interview was conducted by Story Scholar Fakhra Hassan. The summary above provides a brief glimpse into the full interview. The complete video interview is expected to be public in 2017. Browse more stories on the STORY MAP: http://www.1947partitionarchive.org/browse
Hamayun Khan was at BCS Simla from 1941 to 1947 in Rivaz House.
I was a young school boy studying at Bishop Cotton School, Simla when partition took place. After 60 years I was invited to the School for its 150th Anniversary and I then decided to write about myself and the journey from Simla to Lahore made possible by the kindness of many from both sides but mainly from the Indian side. The story is
factual. I shall be too glad to answer any queries.
A Schoolboys story – 1946/1947:
The winter of 1946 was spent with my grandmother and parents, brothers and sister in the village on the banks of the river Chenab on the GT Road in District Gujrat. It was cold and frost covered the land in the mornings. The sun came up shortly before noon for a few hours before people retired and smoke from their homes wound up and settled at a height.
I was a boarder at BCS in Simla and as I had learnt the best way of spending holidays was to walk around the house, fag for my elder cousins Nasim and Akhtar, play football with the local schoolboys and read stories. The elders in the family excelled in medicine, civil service, engineering and were a source of inspiration for me and books around the house on the subjects were of some interest. Grandfather’s desire was that all his children excel in studies and they did not let him down. Visits to the fields were interesting especially where jaggery was prepared.
Off and on news from the city about a rebellion, civil disobedience, public meetings, hartals, tear gas and those who were arrested in the city defying the authorities filtered down to the village. Some of the village folk who used to go to the city would return and tell us what happened. The word ‘Pakistan’ featured prominently and the village bard hoped to be sitting in the ‘Coamatee’ Hall ! Continue reading
OCA United Kingdom
Following the tragic disaster of the earthquakes in Pakistan in 2005, the Old Cottonians Association (UK) decided to raise money for an Appeal Fund to go towards the construction of a new school in the devastated area of Pakistan. Dr. Humayun Khan took it upon himself, with his wife, to administer these funds to their best use.
We now have a photograph of the plaque and there are also those of the school itself, showing the results of our contribution to this most worthy cause.
Our contribution mirrors the deep and lasting feelings of brotherhood which those educated in Bishop Cotton School Simla carry with them over the years. This feeling which crosses borders of country, race and religion, is one of the pillars on which the school was founded and manifests itself to this day. Our Annual Reunions, held in London, bring OCs from East and West, North and South and for us the camaraderie and memories of our schooldays bring us together, shedding the years and reviving and strengthening our friendships, borne of years of ‘suffering’, joy and proximity of annual periods of nine months together in the heavenly setting of then) pine-clad Simla!
So we are proud to have been able to be of some humble assistance in the rehabilitation of young children in this most important of their requirements – the chance to be educated.
We now look forward to seeing a number of OCs from Pakistan joining us from the UK, along with others from around the world, in Simla at the beginning of October to celebrate our 150th Anniversary.
We also send our greetings and best wishes to all those young pupils in their new school for a happy and successful time, which will hopefully lead to a bright future, helping them to cross the borders of country, race and religion.