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The River that played god

Published Aug 13, 2012 05:08pm


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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 few pleasant memories associated with train travels. These memoirs are the dialogues I had with myself while sitting by the windows or standing on the doors as the train moved on. In the era of Cloud and Wi-fi communications, I hope you will like them.


-Photo Credit: Imran Nafeel

The charm of Tilla Jogian and Rohtas is preamble to Jhelum. The city casts its spell, slowly and unknowingly, like love in the later life, tempting yet destructive. The city dates back to countless BCs and there is no account of who actually founded it. Its history and that of the river supplement each other, much like an umbilical cord. The magic of the city precludes talisman of the river.

Besides Indus, which is sacred to most inhabitants of its basin, Jhelum also finds its mentions in Hindu scriptures. Vyeth, Vatista and Hydespes are few names of this river, which according to Vedic scripture, is a source of purification for India. These days, however, it is the source of hydro-power. According to Greek mythology, the river is named after the god, Hydespes, whose parents controlled sea and cloud and whose siblings mastered rainbows and winds. Historians are divided on whether the river was named after the god or the god was named after the river. Despite this myth, reality and tradition, those who have lived by it, believe there is something divine about it.

Verinag, the spring source of Jhelum, is around 80 km from Anant Nag. After the Moghuls made their summer capital at Kashmir, they developed this place into a garden and reshaped the spring into an octagonal structure. From the mountain ranges of Pir Punjab, the river traverses long distances through Saupore, Bara Mola and enters Pakistan at Muzaffarabad. Before irrigating the land of pure, it brings life to Indian lands. The nature has no immigration procedure.

Throughout its course, the river flows past structures, humans and emotions. These sparkling waters have stories to tell but we, the unfortunate children of God, have no time to listen. It wants to tell how it fills the Wooler Lake and also the story of how a king built a small island in the middle of the lake. Another story is about the girl who cried while pedaling alone near Saupore. A tale of a love affair caught between communal strife in Srinagar. A word about the old man at Muzaffarabad, who, after having lived his whole life abroad, has come home to die. However, it does not tell at all about the agony of its riverbeds being excavated for sands to construct shopping malls. The river falls in Chenab at Trimmu Headwork.

Jhelum city was passed on to Sikhs from the Moghuls and eventually came under Raj. The imperialism of the city can be related to the British-style of town planning. The whole city was planned on both sides of the railway line. Hospital, Post office and Garrison developed on one side and the city on the other. A clear demarcation existed between the White man and his burden.

The year of 1857 changed everything about India. Peshawar uprising was curbed with relative ease due to mail censorship and initiatives by the British officers, however, Jhelum appeared as a center of resistance. Thirty-five British soldiers lost their lives. After the order was restored, a plaque was erected at St. John Church to commemorate the lives laid for the Queen mother. The lives laid for our Moghul King, however, find no mention in the history and were lives lost in the real sense.

Nothing much has changed ever since, only that GT Road is the new boundary between the trimmed lawns of garrison and roughly drawn fields of Tahlianwala. In the year of 1873, John Galwey designed a magnificent bridge across river. These days, an imposing hotel, rather the bridge, catches the eye with the promise of rented limousine for wedding ceremonies.

On the other side of the river, is the Inn founded by Moghul king, Aurangzeb Alamgir. It goes by the name of Sara-i-Alamgir. During the First World War, the British realised the military potential of the place. To honor the veterans of Jhelum, a school was planned to provide free education for their children. Inaugurated in 1922, King George V Military School Jhelum was renamed Military College Jhelum after independence and is now known as MCJ. Mostly, the sons of junior commissioned officers study here and after undergoing the selection procedure, join the Pakistan Army. The students of MCJ, known as Alamgirians, have both the attributes in their upbringing, the quest of a student and the vanity of a soldier. Inside the college gates, the world is very different. At a place where Alamgir once provided for the comfort of travelers, an old teacher of language, now provides for the development of his students. Professor Bashir, an instructor with an experience of over 40 years, aims at mending the hearts rather than the sentence structure of Alamgirians.

The city of Jhelum lays claim, not only on the fallen soldiers of the British Infantry, but also on the three brothers Mati Daas, Dayal Daas and Satti Daas, who laid their lives for Guru Taigh Bahadur during the Sikh persecution. Major Akram is another valiant scion of Jhelum who sacrificed his life for the country while fighting against the Indian army at Hilli in 1971. Strangly enough, the Nishan-e-Haider recipient of Pakistan and the Padma Bhushan recipient of India, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, both hailed from Jhelum. The narrow alleys of one of the mohallah, still remember the young Inder Kumar Gujral, who later rose to become Prime Minister of India. While he excelled at statecraft, the younger brother Satish Gujral learnt to draw and carve, making his name as a sculpturist and artist.

Nasser Azam, another artist, moved to England at a young age but Jhelum is still fresh in his memory. Sometime around partition, Balraj Dutt, who lived by the banks of Jhelum River, migrated to live by another river bank, Yamuna. He later took it to acting and was famous as Sunil Dutt. History is like a tornado and its might prompts it to possess short-term memory. The people of Jhelum, no more remember the kings and the generals, but a saint called Mian Muhammad Bakhsh. The mystic poet, who penned “Saif Ul Malook”, is held in reverence by many throughout India and Pakistan. The master-piece revolves around the story of a Prince, who fell in love with a fairy. Fewer believe that the couple still lives in one of the caves in the scenic tourist spot, north of Pakistan. Somewhere on the banks of Jhelum River, I once heard a shepherd, reciting his verses. Beneath the words, a subtle message was being conveyed to the soul through the subconscious, a message which was simple yet thought provoking ...

Loay Loay Bhar Lay Kuriyay Jay Tu Pani Bharna Fill in your pot with water, if you intend so Shaam Payee Bin Shaam Muhammad, Ghar Jaandi Nay Darna When the sun will set, you will fear going home alone ...

Mian Muhammad Bakhsh

The author 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.


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Muhammad Hassan Miraj is a federal government employee.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (47) Closed

swamy Aug 13, 2012 11:25am
This is actually a love story between man and nature well narrated. Hats off Mr M H Miraj.
Koi-Kon Aug 15, 2012 11:00am
Mr Surjit Singh, I invite you to come and visit all these places with me. My purpose of writing these articles, besides personal satisfaction, is the nostalgia it creates for ppl like you. Want to hear more from you. P.S. Sangla will also come along, keep travelling with us
Mayank Vyas Aug 13, 2012 01:33pm
Agar Khuda tumhe nazar de Hasan Miraj, har surat me Khuda nazar aye.. Land of Pure is on both banks of the river Mr. Hasan.. One side is called Bharat and other Pakistan.
Amir Saeed Aug 13, 2012 12:03pm
''The magic of the city precludes talisman of the river.'' I think the right word here is 'preludes' and not 'precludes'.
singh@delhi Aug 13, 2012 12:37pm
excellent article... makes me yearn for the land of my grandparents.... a land i have never set foot on....
Koi-Kon Aug 13, 2012 02:04pm
The Land of pure is just a passing reference . . No malice intended
Koi-Kon Aug 13, 2012 02:05pm
You are welcome, Mr Singh
Ch Shoaib Advocate Aug 13, 2012 02:31pm
Its an excellent description......
Mohammad Khan Aug 13, 2012 03:39pm
The River Jhelum on whose banks I grew up to be an adult and acquired my hobby for fishing. Almost every weekend I used to visit the River from my village as it was located about 2.5 miles away on a higher grounds, saving it from annual flooding ritual. I have not visited it since a longtime and hope to to do so soon. River Jhelum forever.
Bareeha Aug 13, 2012 05:40pm
Okay. so here we are with another beautiful piece of writing! There are very few people who show the glint of light on a broken glass instead of telling that the moon is shining. You're one of them. Hats off sir :) Thank you for bringing the breathings of your heart on a piece of paper and sharing it with us. P.s Your article is the only good thing about a monday :P Keep writing!
hans Aug 13, 2012 05:43pm
This is a well narrated and excellent piece of literature. Today I yearn more to set foot on the land of my ancestors. I am sure I will do that one day and a visit to Jhelum will be on my agenda.
M. Saleem Akhtar Aug 14, 2012 11:47am
Excellent achievement on the part of your brilliant sparkling brain, you've proved that there are many things to believe in the beauty and charm of sub-continent. Go on man.................
Tahir Chaudhry Aug 13, 2012 05:53pm
Super Mr. Miraj. Really enjoyed reading your article.
Ali Aug 13, 2012 09:03pm
Good read. Miss home :)
Haroon Aug 13, 2012 09:25pm
I am so amazed to read that the city where I grew up has so much history in it. Thank you Mr. Miraj.
ASHFAQ AHMED Aug 13, 2012 09:48pm
syed zaidi Aug 13, 2012 10:00pm
i am an alamgirian and proud of the place which taught me everything i know.... thanks to the author for recognising military college jhelum as the prime institute of human development and excellence!!!!!
afzal Aug 13, 2012 10:13pm
you mentioned everybody but somehow you failed to mention the most famous son of Jhang, Dr.Abdus Salaam is it deliberate deep prejudice or he was not good enough for you to mention his name?
Shan Aug 13, 2012 10:22pm
Beautiful piece of writing Mr.Miraj! Keep up the good work!
najam dean Aug 13, 2012 11:44pm
it is an excellent piece of writing. Hats off to Mr Miraj. loved reading it
Madan Aug 14, 2012 12:52am
An excellent article.The river jhelum flows through other important cities,one of which is Bhera.This city has also produced many notable personalities like Fazal Ilahi Paracha and his siblings.Alaudin Paracha ,the first surveyor general of Pakistan ,notable hindi novelist Bhisham Sahni,his famous actor brother Balraj Sahni,Shanti sarup bhatnagar,nobel prize winner in chemistry were also born in Bhera.My father was always enamoured of the river and before partition of India he would love to swim in the river in the early hours of the morning thro'out the summer season.Hindus of the town would take a holly dip in the river on the baisakhi day.This article evokes my memories of the past.People pass away but the river flows.
makraja Aug 14, 2012 01:29am
Many thanks for the article Jhelum is my ancestral city and I dare say I never looked forward to visiting it though it had its own calm and serenity. The Cantt was still very colonial in architecture and all houses were self contained with enough land for crops and cattle I was rudely shocked when I visited it four years ago with my family to find at least 20 new houses where my grandparents house was but I guess that is what we call progress and population explosion. I also have my romantic associations with Jhelum surprisingly on either side of the divide which makes it so special to me.
GPK Aug 14, 2012 02:01am
I stayed in Udhampur with my parents, in 1962 and visited Kashmir for few a day or two. Now I dream of visiting same places again (both sides, Bharat and Pak). Hope both countries will become friends in my lifetime.
Khaja Aug 14, 2012 02:13am
I wish this article had been properly scrutinized by an editor. The poor and idiosyncratic spelling and wrong grammar and syntax could have been corrected.
JatinderS Aug 14, 2012 03:06am
Kash, ek din aasa ho, jub dono mulak ek ho jayan. Dono hi puttar hai ek ma ke. Firangi ne inka ghar barba kiya 1947 mein.
Jhelumi Aug 14, 2012 03:38am
I am listening that India is trying to change the flow of Jhelum. It will be the death of history. I really hope India will not do so since it will create more misery for poor people of Punjab and would groom hatred. I am from Jhelum, but have not returned to that beautiful city for 20 years. I have very profound memories of that city. I can say it is the most beautiful city of Pakistan. The people of Jhelum are the most handsome people in Sub-continent. They are descendent of Greeks, Mughals, Kashmiris, Hindu Gujar, refugee of East Punjab, Rajput worriers who converted to Islam in 17th century due to strong Sufi influence in the area. Jhelum is still one of the few Punjabi towns that has not accepted the radical version of Wahhabism.
ayaz rasool nazki Aug 14, 2012 03:45am
liked the write up , few names got messed up though...pir panchal....not pir punjab....we in kashmir spell ...sopore and baramulla.....
Ashok Malhotra Aug 14, 2012 04:24am
Jehlum is the city where my parents grew up. Great narration and makes me feel emotional. I wish I could visit the place at least once!
omar Aug 14, 2012 04:25am
brilliant...stumbled upon it by accident and couldnt stop reading.
afaq Aug 14, 2012 04:40am
Last May I was visiting my in laws village of Khun Khurd Abbottabad district over look this mighty river with Kohala bridge. Wish I can post some picture here.
Saeed Shah Aug 14, 2012 05:02am
The story of Jhelum is incomplete without mentioning Syed Zameer Jafary who was a famous urdu poet and a writer.
murali Aug 14, 2012 05:38am
Miraj, not only you choose the subjects that are close to the hearts of people from both the sides, you narrate them with such a warmth that you liberate the reader from the shackles of conventional Indo pak prejudice that swirl around who has written what about the other. God bless you and thanks DAWN for this.
ShaukatFarooq Aug 14, 2012 05:49am
Such articles make you love your country.Mr mohammad hassan mairaj deserves appreciation and a lots of congratulations.This article created GOODWILL in readers mind for the area and the people of Jehlum and sorrounding areas.Sons of this land have special blood for Bravery on both sides of the border.
raja Aug 14, 2012 07:40am
A treat indeed to read such a wonderful article
k.swamy Aug 14, 2012 09:53am
I agree
Mohammad Ashraf Aug 14, 2012 07:59am
Mohammad Ashraf Amazing. Jhelum is also a popular femaler name in both Hindus and Muslims (jhelmay) was the heroin of a Rajinder singh bedis fiction which was later filmed in India (ek Chaddar mailee see). Well done Mr Miraj.
Muhammad Naqvi Aug 14, 2012 08:06am
Simply a magical mystery tour. I spent many a school holidays with my grand parent in Khurd and would go with Nana Jee fishing and see the beautiful river Jhelum down to Kahrian. Year after year I would see the river break its banks and flood the plans to the north and sometimes the flood water would enter the village. Loved every moment of it. I am now in my sixties and still remember every moment spent sun bathing on the river banks or sitting in cool breeze in the famous mosque on he river banks which got flooded with every high tide. Simply magical. How I miss those happy un forgetable days.
Haji Ashfaq Aug 14, 2012 08:25am
Better read the spirit of the article rather than pointing the spelling mistakes.
Amir Jafri Aug 14, 2012 09:19am
Excellent piece. Unpretentious, elegant, nostalgic.
Koi-Kon Aug 14, 2012 02:01pm
Dear Afzal, The article is about jhelum.... I have yet to reach Jhang, and by the way, I am proud of the fact that Dr Salam was from my country.
Naveed Aug 14, 2012 03:51pm
Why do Indians have this fantasy? We Pakistanis like to be independent. What is your problem.
Baseer Aug 14, 2012 05:47pm
Why don't you. You are most welcome...
.IJAZ Aug 14, 2012 06:11pm
Surjit Singh Aug 14, 2012 10:32pm
May the Karam of Allah, Waheguru, Bhagwan and God be on the god of Jehlam and soon the relations between the countries of the sub-continent become like those of Canada and USA and later expand to Afghanistan and Burma like US & Mexico! Every country keeping its identity but people celebrating so much of what is common amongst them. From 83 year old cynic, who was born at Roorkee Cantt. and grew up in garrisons at Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Manglore, Jehlam and later in Jalalabad and Kabul with his ancestral village near Sangla Hill, living in US for the last 55 years. I love USA, but out of nostalgia I would like to see the places where I grew up, even though I saw the tragedy of Partition with the eyes of grown up young man.
n dean Aug 14, 2012 11:34pm
It has been said by some wise soul and I quote " bad spelling and grammar does not matter CONTENT does"
GemmeGhaffar Aug 15, 2012 04:57am
do come some time to see where tr G/pa spent their youth . You are welcome here. Kabbe aaoo na Pakistan .
b khosla Aug 15, 2012 06:56am
Where lies the real Pakistan? In the elegant enlightened world of Miraj! or Where the Chief justice of Pakistan condones the kidnapping! rape! conversion! and marriage of a minor Hindu girl.