Lahore to PAF Kohat
Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin
In February 18, 1969 I travelled by PIA from Dhaka to Lahore. It was my first journey by an aircraft. Our aircraft landed in Lahore at about evening. Here in the joy there was a sorrow of living home was hidden in heart. Before flight from Dhaka in the airmen mess we all the recruits were issued a blanket and a sweater. We did not understand its reason. When we came out of the aircraft and given our first step in the gangway scorching cold wave made us clear the mojaja (secret) of the blanket and sweater. So, hurriedly in the airport we wore the sweater. In the flying aircraft the dealings of cabin crews, their supplying of food and drinks, chocolates and other entertainments also charmed us. From the windows of the aircraft flying clouds below and other phenomenon were events of joy no doubt except little headache and tendency of closing ears due to high altitude. Some also vomited. Many face such problems due to high altitude.
From Lahore Rail Station our train journey began. There also we had few occasions of joy and sorrow. In our room a group of Poly tech technique students also travelled. Soon they became our friends though languages of each other were little known. They purchased food like pakura and fruit like malta, keno and tried to entertain us. In Lahore rail station pakura, fruits etc were sold by vendors. Pukura was prepared hot in the van and used to supply hot shouting Pakura, pakura….! Some of the students probably could sing. Someone started singing in unknown language to us. I made request to sing a Kawali the very popular songs of Pakistan. Someone started, “ O- lal mera pate rakhio bala.” By next two or three stations students got down. Till they were in the train we were in immense pleasure. Kohat was long away from Lahore. Night was increasing. Only sound of the high speed train was heard. Till advancing towards the north cold was gradually increasing. Our blanket helped us to sleep but at interval i.e. sleeping and its break and again sleep.
We did not know when Mari, Islamabad etc area gone back. At about 8 or 9 o-clocks (AM) the train stopped in a station. I have forgotten the name of the station and reason of our getting down. Did we change the station? My memory failed to help me. However that might be a junction. But around us there were many Pakistani students. They were also moving towards Kohat. At that time ISSB center for West Pakistan was there. They were going to face ISSB with a dream to become officer in the Defense Forces. They took us to be also ISSB candidates. They were laughing, gossiping and passing their time. Why I became emotional it was not clear to me. I failed to check my tear. Was it sorrow of leaving home or something else! Again train started. As that was not local train, things were going back fast. It ignored less important stations. Some where it entered tunnel of mountain and came out in the plain. Most probably we crossed the bridge over Jhelum River. Things of beauty were running back. In the two sides harvested fields. Many event of joy soon passed back. In some place girls seen on the back of buffaloes, somewhere man on the back of donkey, somewhere cattle were walking from one bush to another bush to graze etc. Hod–Hod ( a type of bird) seen fly and sat and again fly. It’s the nature of this type of bird. But that gave us pleasure. This bird is like big Wood peckers of Bangladesh.
Again after the noon we saw a hill in front of us. Gradually it became clearer. The train stopped in a station. It was Kohat. A big trailer truck was waiting there. A smart looking person came there to receive us. The hill seemed hanging over the station. We looked at that. A command came, “ get in the Queen Mary” “Hurry up” etc ( exact commands now is not in memory). Later we came to know the smart good looking Commander was Bengali GCI Cpl. Kamal. Next ten months (with one month extension) he commanded us in the Parade ground. His harsh Commands to somebody were not joy but sorrow. Once I spoke with him in Bengali. He shouted (rest I will not tell you as it was very good bull sheeting). In defense forces everyone takes it easy but it was my sorrow. I never tried to speak Bengali with him in my Kohat life till the initial training was over. After training I saw his soft heart. He spoke in Bengali with us. By the by, once I went a shoe shop in Kohat market. I saw Cpl. Kamal was also purchasing shoes or just choosing. He saw me and told me, “If I choice a pair of shoe for you wills you buy it?” I told him, “Yes sir!” It is worth mentioning here that later his choice was liked by many of my colleagues. Was it not a token of his soft heart? To make a civilian a soldier a GCI must be very hard in the field. He did not talk in Bengali with trainees because in PAF training centers communication in English was obligatory.
So, only GCI could show recruits proper path to learn English and air force manner.
Now I feel my skill of writing English to present you my experience is in great extend his gift. Salam to my GCI Cpl. Kamal (he retired as a Master Warrant Officer from the BAF). There I saw the mixed reaction of joy and sorrow among other trainees also. For the job they were happy but for hard training, extra drill and military battle practice by night after hard work throughout the day disheartened them. Here is a story of one of my entry fellows, who most probably was either from Noakhali or Comilla made a rhyme. It was as follows: HAIRA TAHARA TAHA, ATO DUR AI GHOR BARI CHARI, TAHA KAMAI KORI, HAIRA TAHARA TAHA! ( O- Taka O-Money, I came such long distance leaving home, Earning money, O-Taka O-money.). It is also a mixed expression of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. He was satisfied because he was provided but had also sighed as he had been far away from his home.
Air force is the way of life. From the beginning this process started. Though airmen are beginner soldiers of the Air force yet authority has every possible care to train them in a way so that their merits can be used to work in the high technology like aircraft, helicopter, radar, radio, arms and many other sophisticated electrical and mechanical devices. So, in our time also during training there were good arrangements of entertainment like picnic, education tour etc. There were also arrangements of games and sports. On conclusion of training of certain entry in ATTS, PAF kohat there was a cultural function. There famous singer of that time Nur Zahan was also invited. Most of the audiences were Panjabi. They were charmed with her and other Gazal singers’ performance. Among the airmen there were few Pusto speaking also. Hence a famous Pusto singer was invited. He started singing with a ‘Robab’ a local musical instrument. The language I did not understand but I liked the music of that folk song. It might be the song of love or sorrow or emotion. But the Panjabis were shouting ‘no more’ ‘no more’. It hurt me and Pusto speaking pathans. It was much dishonor to a great Pusto singer. Once I wanted to quote in mind a Pusto love song. Only four lines of that I can remember now. “Jo entajar kum eshna distargo/ I am waiting for your blue eyes; oli ponashi jomao distargo/ I will be waiting for you for decades together; johur chita gorum donya lotama/ to your beauty world becomes crazi; golu lala oa distargo/ mountain rose is also bleak to your beauty.” I am sorry if my recollection and translation is not correct. Salam to that singer.