Was Sir Muhammad Iqbal inspired by Sargodha, or was Sargodha inspired by Iqbal?
Sargodha district is renowned for its oranges and henna, whereas the city of Sargodha is famous for the PAF Base Mushaf, which is also host to the elite combat commander school of the Pakistan Air force. It is a widely held belief that, the first bomb to be dropped on Pakistani soil during the 1965 war can now be found – unexploded at the aptly named, ‘Bum Chowk’ in the city of Sargodha. Being home to the sterling air heroes of the 1965 war, earned this city, the nickname of, “Shaheenon Ka Shehar”.
I was fortunate to be born in this small – and back then, clean city. Roads were well-maintained and clean compared to other cities and there were only a handful of cars. In fact, the most common mode of public transport was the Tonga. IIRC, there were only a couple of ‘petrol pumps’ in the city and one had to travel to the outskirts to fill up the tank. Water Supply Road – later re-named (Farooq e Azam Road) was where I grew up. Now that I think back, the people I grew up amongst were mainly from two different ethnic backgrounds. The main road was the great divider – on one side, all houses were owned by local Punjabis and on the other side was the Muhajir mohalla. Despite the stark differences between the languages of the two communities, there was never any bloodshed. The sectarian divide on the other hand was a whole different story.
I attended Army Public School Sargodha, which was located in Sargodha Cantt. The Lower Jhelum Canal divides the city from the Cantt, and my school was located amongst prime agricultural land opposite of the famous Remount Depot Sargodha. For me, the city was divided in 4 areas – the androon shehar (covering the old city area), the Army Cantt on the outskirts of the city, the PAF Base and its surrounding areas and the then gunjaan abaad Satelliate Town. The old city area is full of life, and one can walk from one end to another on foot without breaking much of a sweat. Ideally, I always start from the Water Supply Road and end up at Company Bagh at the other end, while always making sure to have sugarcane juice at one of shops located just outside the entrance of the Bagh.
Much has changed since I moved to Rawalpindi in 1998, but a small abode awaits me anxiously whenever I land in Pakistan, and I make sure to spend a week or two every year in Sargodha. Here are a few pictures I took while roaming around aimlessly the last time I visited, hope you enjoy them.
More pictures to come in the next blog post soon, watch this space.