Subject: Memoir of Captivity
PAF Camps: Isolated events
Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin
In Chasma like Bannu we saw no food, fruits or vegetables vendors among the local people. Those who purchased pastry from the old Chacha mia (uncle) in RTS, PAF Kohat, they will never forget him. This saint looking Pathan used to sell very testy pastry and he was very nice behaved. In our off time he entered the camp with pastry in a special type of box. In Kohat fruit sellers used come with Aamrud (guava), Alo-Bukhara, Khubani, orange etc seasonal fruits in their vans. Once we the trainees from Kohat went to Peshawar most probably in an education tour. There around a vendor Pathan and Punjabi trainees rushed and was purchasing pieces of sweet gourd like fruit by fifty paisa ( I cannot remember price of the piece or a seer). I was astonished they purchased sweet gourd and how happy they were! Now I cannot remember Pathan Zia bhai or Punjabi Akhter or half Pathan and half Punjabi Oshok Lal told me Bondhu bhai, “ bohot acha mewa hai, Khao.” (Eat,very good fruit, Bondgu bhai). Hazara people were half Pathan and Half Punjabi because they speak both Postu and Punjabi with similar skill. Ashok Lal was from Hazara. Zia bhai was from the Quetta. Once he went on leave and came back with few Apples and grapes of Chamon. Zia bhai personally handed over my share to me and most probably told, “Yea shobcha acha kishim ka seb hai.” (this is the best types of Apple). The grapes of Chomon were very famous at that time. Actually, his apple and grapes were no doubt testy. So far I remember in the same leave Akhter also went home and brought some homemade foods. I cannot remember now whether he was from Sialkot or Bahwalpur or Jhelum. Memory with Oshok Lal was bit bitter. Still I find no reason, why he suddenly gave me a powerful blow. Most probably once he became my sparring partner and one of my punch could hurt him and that was its revenge. If that was so he took the revenge out of the Boxing ring. Such sparring practice I did with Masud and once I knocked him down but he never took such revenge. After Masud was knocked down my PT instructor CPL Niazi inspired me intensively and even in the Mess he instructed old one eyed Pathan cook to give me more meat saying, “ya sherando puttar sher hei! Esko jiada Gost dea koro.” (he is a tiger give him more meat). Mess SNCO in charge had opposite idea about the Boxing Team. Once he said, “Tum Haram khur ho, tum jeet neha sakta!” (You take Haram food, you cannot win/ his exact saying I forgot). His experience was correct because Boxers from new recruits was unable to fight with experienced Air Force boxers who had many wins and losses in their credit. For many years of their hard practice they had more stamina. If I had to fight with Air force light fly weight champion Zamali who lost many times and won many times and who also played probably in national level what would happen? Without doubt my defeat! However let us go back to Peshawar; I purchased one piece of that gourd on request. It was so much so testy. They told that was ‘Gorma’ and from Afghanistan. Later I took this fruit what was cultivated in Pakistan but those were not as testy as that. Afghan one was different in both test and smell.
In SOA Korangi creek we could purchase Khorboja (Melon/ Bangi in Bengali) and other fruits from a seller of Karachi. I cannot remember now, was he from the Muhajir or from the Sindhi? I saw there when our Parade broke in the morning and when sea water was high fishing boats used to pass by the end of SOA Parade ground, Bengali Airmen used to purchase fish from them. There was a passage for Yacht team of PAF. Yachters took their boats to the sea by that way. That was the ideal place for the fish buyers. There was also a jetty bridge. It was spacious, high and long one that started from the end of the Parade ground. Most probably that was made for the military boats to be anchored there on requirements, so that during high tides that could be used. That was the good waiting place for fish seekers. In low tides that was useless for any purpose. As at that time one had to go miles together to reach the water. That was the kingdom of mud skipper. Street Dogs came down to the shore in search of shell, snail or dead fish. Dog could not tolerate us when we went down. But they had friendship with shell collector for pearl, as shells’ flesh was dear to dogs. When in low tide we went down. We saw hundreds of small fish in the ditch of the bed or canals even stingray fish was also visible who were waiting again to get high tide.
Time to time airmen could take fish from the fishing boats, but most of the time they declined to take price of the fish. Most of the fishermen were from the Sindhi Population, few Bengali might also be there as there were many Rohinga and Bengali basti near the shore. Pakistani used to tell those basti ‘Zogi’ however it was not only the name of Bengali basti (In Risalpur also I heard this name for the Poor men basti where airmen used to go to purchase shirt piece, pant piece etc). In the dry fish processing there also might be Rohinga and Bengali workers. Near PAF Korangi Creek there were fish drying families. So, the smell of dried fish always troubled us. Dry fish loving men from East Pakistan who had family there on holydays had free access to that area in peace time before. Besides in Korangi creek there were established shops like other bases from where we could purchase things. In the PAF base Sargodha when we made workless at that time we had enough time to purchase fruits from the vendors who came in the camp. They carried Malta, Keno (orange), and Mango etc seasonal fruits. In Sargodha a special types of Malta was available. Its edible inner part was bit reddish instead of yellow. Vendors sliced fruits and sold to us. One of such vendors used to sell his fruits in front my barrack. Once Aziz bhai purchased a good number of mangos and entertained me and my body building instructor. Now Aziz bhai is among the death. He was a member of Tabligue Zamat. Very nice man he was. May Allah grant him Ferdous! There Sharif bhai also was a Tabligue Zamat member. I lived in his room. In our room there was a Punjabi wrestler named Cpl Murid. He was also interested to wrestle. But I was a light fly weight boxer not a wrestler. However, once I dared to wrestle. Its result is well known to all. With a light heavy weight wrestler how a boxer like me can fight? As a man Cpl Murid was always well mannered. I do not know about him now. Was he sent to our country to fight against our freedom fighters? It was Government disparity and policy that made to fight against each other. If Government did not want general people would never come to fight against friends who once served together. If Government would follow the parity of religions that would be never required! Sharif bhai was also repatriated in due time and got retirement from BAF as a Sgt.
Our last abode in Pakistan was PAF camp Chasma. PAF base Drigh road, Karachi was our transit camp from where we just went to airport. There we were not permitted to go even to base canteen to purchase anything. So, memory of the Chasma is longer than Drigh Road. In Chasma PAF authority was more vigilant. They did not want to see the incidents repeated again what occurred earlier in other camps for that happenings their command and control were questioned. So, in the Chasma camp like other camps every thing was not permitted. So no local vendors were allowed in the camp. However, someone took the charge of the camp canteen. He was a local person. He tried to supply all our requirements even fresh Roi and other fishes from Chasma barrage. We were never permitted the out pass to visit the barrage. It was a hydro electric plant too. Now we know near it is Kahota atomic energy project. There over the lake water gentle breeze or simoom flew. We never heard its sound. But in our mind always there were sound of Arabian Sea or the heart throbbing rocky sound of Kabul River when its water flew after heavy rain with boulders, pebbles and that every things in its way.