The River Ravi - Then and Now

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Dr. Anand - an unholy person born in 1932 in the holy town of Nankana Sahib, central Punjab. A lawyer father, a doctor mother. Peripatetic childhood - almost gypsy style. Many schools. Many friends, ranging from a cobbler's son (poorly shod as the proverb goes) to a judge's son. MB from Glancy (now Government) Medical College Amritsar, 1958. Comet 4 to Heathrow, 1960.
Widower. Two children and their families keep an eye on him. He lives alone in a small house with a small garden. Very fat pigeons, occasional sparrows, finches green and gold drop in to the garden, pick a seed or two and fly away.

I read today (December 2018) that the river Ravi has run dry in Lahore.

Reminded me of the times past. The 1940s.

Then, the Raavi (or Ravi) was a majestic River. We used to cross it by the road bridge when travelling by "Lorry." Yes. You read it right. In those days, in the Punjab, the term lorry was not exclusively used for motorised Goods Vehicles. What one calls a Bus now was a "lorry "then. We, the passengers, sat inside on seats, mostly. Some passengers sat on the roof top - in the company of boxes, trunks, bales of fodder, baskets (covered by a string netting) containing squawking chickens.

Inside the lorry, you sat in the front seat, next to the driver. That is, if you were an important passenger - a policeman (Pulsia, in Panjabi colloquially). Or, if you paid extra.

The lesser mortals sat on the hard, uncomfortable seats. They often had the company of chickens in baskets, or a goat or two. No sheep. The live-stock there in those days was goats, cows, buffaloes.

There was a separate bridge for trains - the railway line ran from Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Lahore, Amritsar, Jullundhur, Ludhiana, Ambala, on to the "Poorab" to Calcutta, or to the Deccan and Bumbyee (Bombay.

As we travelled from Lahore to Sheikhupura by train in 1945 (or was it 1946?) the Ravi was in flood. The train doors were open. Some passengers sat on the steps and dangled their feet in the water. So high was the water. There was an occasional dead, drowned buffalo floating down, some branches of trees.

(My father was taking his three children to Qila Sheikhupura railway station, where my maternal grandfather awaited us. My father returned to Lahore by the next train. We three children had a delightful journey to the village.)

So, then the Ravi was a real river. A few centuries earlier, following a flood it had left its old course which was near the then boundary of Lahore and moved westward. The old course was then the Budha Darya (Old River). The Budha Darya grew Kol Dodas (Lotus), and Singhara (water chestnuts).

Enough of the rambles in the past. Sad that the Ravi is not the Ravi of my childhood.


© Joginder Anand 2018

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