Jahandad and Warburton
For whom the bell tolls
The 16th day of April 1853 is special in the Indian history. The day was a public holiday. At 3:30 pm, as the 21 guns roared together, the first train carrying Lady Falkland, wife of Governor of Bombay, along with 400 special invitees, steamed off from Bombay to Thane.
Ever since the engine rolled off the tracks, there have been new dimensions to the distances, relations and emotions. Abaseen Express, Khyber Mail and Calcutta Mail were not just the names of the trains but the experiences of hearts and souls. Now that we live in the days of burnt and non functional trains, I still have a few pleasant memories associated with train travels. These memoirs are the dialogues I had with myself while sitting by the windows or standing at the door as the train moved on. In the era of Cloud and Wi-fi communications, I hope you will like them.
From Shiekhupura, one track leads to Lyallpur via Safdarabad and the other passes through Nankana to Shorkot. Enroute Nankana, lies the slumber of Warburton.
The deserted railway station with Warburton painted on the central arch is in vicinity of the Robin Neel factory. Stiffened railway lines occasionally talk to the baked bricks of the factory walls, otherwise the silence reins. In the middle distance, a textile mill rolls out countless meters of denim. Very few know that the discolored name on the station has a history of its own. Warburton, like the Sindhis, had a golden heart. Once they sailed off to new found lands, they never looked back and made new homes happily. They were neither prisoner to past, nor complained of homesickness. Now that the time has long gone and we have learnt that history is not about men but the man, Warburton has been conveniently forgotten.
After the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, large numbers of immigrants moved to England; Warburtons were one of them. They settled at Cheshire, near Wales, a place still indifferent to immigrants. After some eight centuries, they started travelling with the sun that never set on the British Empire. From Australia to Ireland and USA to India, wherever the Pax-Britannica fluttered, some Warburtons shouldered the white man’s burden.
Tehkal Cemetry in Peshawar is now known as the Gora Qabristan (The Christian graveyard). Painfully neglected, this cemetery is an important annexure of the Ango-Afghan episode, a war diary tabulated on tombstones. These men, women and children died in their bid to host the Union Jack in Kabul. One of the stone indicates Robert Warburton, most famous amongst the Warburtons. An officer of the Bengal Artillery, born and buried in Peshawar, he was imprisoned in the Ghilzai Fort during the afghan campaign. During the imprisonment, he fell in love with Shahjehan Begum, the divorced niece of the Amir of Afghanistan, who later on married her. Together, they raised their two sons, who carried the combined brilliance of Shahjehan begum and Warburton.
Jahandad was the first son of Shahjehan Begum from her marriage with Amir Faiz Talab, a noble at the court. During his schooling at the Roman Catholic School, Agra, Robert brought him up and he soon took up the name, John Paul Warburton. He joined the Punjab Police and retired in 1900 as the Inspector General of Patiala State Police. In 1909, as recognition of his services, he received a grant of land from Viceroy. This land in Gujranwala district is now known as Warburton. Particularly famous for his handling of the famous thugs of India, a menace for Raj, Warburton gained sufficient fame to inspire characters in Kipling’s stories. This brilliant cop died after falling from horseback at the Gilbert House in the garrisoned hill station of Kasauli, in 1919.
The second and only son of Shahjehan Begum and Robert Paul Warburton was born in the Ghilzai Fort, during his father’s imprisonment. He took up his father’s name and followed him in the profession of arms. At the end of the second Anglo-Afghan war, the British awoke to the fact of keeping the Khyber road open. To accomplish this, they needed someone with local flavor and imperial ambition. Robert Warburton was definitely the best choice who tamed the Afridis and kept the route open. Many military historians believe that the diplomacy of this young officer outweighed the British war effort. Due to his Durrani bravery and Warburton temper, this first commandant commanded great respect of his men. The last name in this family tree is awfully strange … Pamela Warburton Durrani.
On the second route, the town of Farooqabad has three dimensions, a Seminary, a Gurudwara and a mental health facility. The first dimension is the 92-years-old Adventist Seminary where Christians are trained for pastoral duties. These shepherds spend two to four years before they tend to the flock and heal the wounded souls. Somewhere in the vicinity, Baba Nanak fed Jogis with the money his father had given him for business. He traded coins for prayers and the devotees found this equation true to its essence. Gurudwara Sacha Soda is a monument of this true bargain and is the second dimension. The security hazards, however, have made it difficult for people of other faiths to visit this Gurudwara.
Western scholars have concluded that the surroundings contribute significantly towards the mental ailments. The indifference of a society isolates its individuals and creates conditions for degeneration. Locking these patients or calling them names not only alienates them but wanes their belief in humanity. On the other hand, the vastness of the fields straightens these conflicts and the scent of the soil dissolves this chaos. This therapy, first evolved in New Jersey, was not very novel so when practiced by Dr Rasheed Chaudhary, it delivered. Fountain House is the third dimension of Farooqabad.
Among the old buildings, Thakurdwara was a temple, constructed in 1822 and was the largest in the area. After the partition, the temple silently gave way to a mosque. The cremation ground was equally divided between the Seminary and an Islamic organisation. Some of the temples and Gurudwaras fell prey to the Babri mosque madness and others silently developed into shops.
Farooqabad does not ring a bell with the old people, it should not. As a matter of fact, the original name of the place was Chuhar Kana. Along with Shamke, Banduke and Jhamke, it was also developed by a Sikh Sardar, Chuhar Singh and as Ranjit Singh; Chuhar Singh also had one eye. When Pakistan came into being, the puritans took the driving seat but by then Chuhar Kana did not pose a threat. Decades later, when a military dictator tried to Islamcise the country, a need was felt to baptize this city. Finally in 1983, Chuhar Kana was christened Farooqabad, inside the city, Muhallah Guru Nanakpura also cut its Kais, exchanged its turban for a skull cap and converted to Madni Nagar.
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Muhammad Hassan Miraj is a federal government employee.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.