Pathankot of yore

The weekly vegetable market there brought people from far and wide together.

It was in mid-1971 that I was posted from an Air Force unit in the northeast to another unit in Pathankot. Even during the period of war, Pathan-kot was quite peaceful. 

During those days of calm, we would  go to the town during vespertine hours by taanga – a single-horse-drawn cart – for shopping with our families  and return home late at night carrying the load of our pricey purchases. However, the fear of any thief or other mischievous elements never haunted our minds. That’s how safe and serene  Pathankot of the early 70s was.

The weekly vegetable market, one of the many occasions that brought people from far and wide together, was a regular affair. The caboodle of vegetable vendors would be gung-ho in displaying their greens for sale. Every item in the stalls – fresh and luscious yields straight from the fields – would be up for grabs, besides being dirt-cheap in prices.

Customers would generally exit the Pathankot market with their bags brimming with a variety of the greens, and yours truly was no exception in carrying nothing short of a kitbag bulging out with a pack of veggies. Barely can I forget the one time when I bought a sizably plump cauliflower, weighing no less than two and a half kilograms, for a paltry eight naye paise without snip.

Riders of two-wheelers and cyclists, when stranded on the roads leading to the market due to a punctured wheel or a conked-out engine, had never to be worried since there was no dearth of auto-garages and cycle-repair shops on either side of them.

The mechanics in the repair shops and garages would easily troubleshoot the snags or patch up the puncture in double quick time, all at highly nominal charges. But, above all this, the deportment of both, the owners and the blue-collared, towards the customers would always be singularly kind and cordial.

On occasions, we enjoyed getaways with our families and friends in Pathankot, a beautiful area dotted with picnic spots. During those years, terrorist and such other anti-national elements were unheard of by us.

So, when one who has lived in that calm and quiet border district of scenic beauty and pleasant climate for even a year or so – let alone a period of four years as I had – learns that the same place was attacked by terrorists, one’s hair stands on end with horror.

Although the brave forces on our side have done away with the brazen and yellow-bellied perpetrators of terrorism, even the mere thought that such a tranquil place, which had always been  unruffled by conflict, has of late come under terrorist attack, wrings our hearts with deep depression. 

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