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Pakistan: City's landmark.

Pakistan, June 27 -- The story of Tollinton Market in Lahore, started in the Victorian times with the arrival of Prince Albert of Wales. His highness had a savour for history and museums. Lahore's Commisioner, Tollinton realised that the historically rich Lahore lacked a museum to exhibit and reminisce its past. A British looking rectangular building existed on the ever important Mall Road (then known as the 'Thandhi Sarak'). This building was originally built as the exhibition hall for arts and crafts during the Great Punjab Exhibition of 1864. It was also known as the 'Punjab Exhibition Hall'. Later on, when the exhibition was over, it was decided to make this the temporary Lahore Museum and also to house the Punjab School of Arts and Crafts, until money could be found to make a proper museum and a school next to it. It remained the original or 'old' Lahore Museum and School of Arts (later called the Mayo School/College) until 1895. When Rudyard Kipling came to work as a young reporter from England, at the C & MG, it was this museum he saw and immortalised in his great novel Kim.

Commissioner Tollinton had attempted to present a museum. However, the Prince recognised the want of a proper one. He designated the viceroy to construct the 'Lahore Museum'. Thus, like every prince charming, he endowed Lahore with pleasant fortune.

But what was to be done with the 'tent like' colonial building? The pre-partition British resented the dirty, common markets. A clean market, with all the necessary provisions would be exquisite.

When all the shops went to the already affluent Hindus, the Muslims protested and went to the then Governor Sir Shahab-ud-din, who decided in their favour. One of the businessmen who protested was Sheikh Muhammad Sadiq.

The Tollinton Market was like a long hall. At the back was poultry, right side contained an armaments' shop, on the left there was 'Ideal Book Depot' and on the front was the 'Punjab Store', founded by Sheikh Sadiq. Most shops on The Mall were owned by non-Muslims, except for Delhi House, Busy Bee Pharmacy and later the Punjab Store of course.

Sheikh Sadiq had three sons namely Asif, Azam and Rafiq. The former two still run the business but were reluctant to converse with TNS. Dr. Rafiq Sadiq, is a former Vice Chancellor of the Punjab University and a rebel from his family occupation. He agreed to share his memories. He studied in one of the shop's corners that overlooked the Punjab University's clock tower and continued the practice till his Master's degree.

The shop quickly attracted the gentry. All the high court judges, lawyers, Punjab University professors, bishops etc shopped there along with the big names like the Daultanas, Nawab of Kalabagh, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Gurmanis and more. The shop had imported provisions bought through special agents. These agents had lists you ordered and paid through bank. The goods were shipped from the UK, primarily because Pakistan didn't have many manufacturing units till after partition. Every time shipments came in with their wooden cartons, the news would spread and customers would arrive. The store was a big dealer of imported cigarettes like Caravan and 555.

During the Second World War, a drink arrived from China. It was rumoured to spoil the Indian health so free booths were set up by companies like Tapal and Lipton in Tollinton. The drink was none other then tea and we are all irreversibly hooked indeed. In 1964, Pakistan Government gave an award to make the phenomenon popular. The only shop to get the award was the Punjab Store where the bemused spectators would collect in the afternoon.

During the Pakistan Movement, protests took place on The Mall. Often, in times of curfew, the activists took refuge on Tollinton's rooftop. In 1947, half of Lahore's population and shop-owners evacuated.

The market was under the Corporation (City Government) that took good care of it. In English times, the whole market was cleaned every Saturday and had net doors to prevent insects. The shops were rented but had a court stay order. Therefore, in 1995, some three years after Sheikh Sadiq's death and 100 years of shopping, Tollinton was required to be vacated. The shopkeepers refused. Eventually they opted for the alternative space promised to them.

The Punjab Store is now located on the road adjoining Ferozpur Road to Jail Road. In the last two decades, retail shopping has been redefined. Large provision stores, smaller shops and chains have sprouted everywhere. The three Sadiq brothers have separate businesses now. The fact that the store is huddled in poultry shops, with wings flying and a stink floating everywhere doesn't help its sinking popularity. Hopefully, the family and friends of Punjab store will help revive its charm and grandeur

Published by HT Syndication with permission from The Friday Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com

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Publication:The Friday Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:Jun 27, 2010
Words:834
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