Sunday, October 4, 2009

Haddoke, Aggoke and Sialkot

For many Sialkot may sound familiar but not the other two places – but for me these are synonymous to one another and my childhood. I first heard of Haddoke – a small village near Sambrial, Sialkot,  from my mother since she was born there. It was here that she played with her friends, ran behind butterflies and had rides on swings hanging with ropes under tall old trees. It was here that she was brought up and the married to my father. I also came to know of another name – “Palkhu Nala” , a seasonal nullah that flowed near my mother’s village and the people of her village had to cross the muddy water to go to Sambrial or Sialkot and return. So obviously I was overjoyed to pass over the nullah near Wazirabad during my first train journey from Lahore to Rawalpindi – it was something that I heard from my mother. That’s all about Haddoke.

Sialkot – located 130 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital Lahore and just miles away from the Indian border, is the "export city" of Pakistan. It exports surgical instruments, sports gear and cutlery. However, unlike public sector based industry, the entire export industry of Sialkot is in the private sector, financed mostly through family savings.  

Now Aggoke – which was once a small village around Sialkot (now grown into a town) – I came to know this place when I read a small love story of this village in once the only digest of Pakistan, “The Urdu Digest”. But it was in 1978, when as a young officer, I was asked to go to Sialkot and make cutlery and crockery for the mess since the president of Pakistan was to visit Sargodha and was to have dinner in our mess. So it was no surprise for me to be happy when going to Sialkot I saw the Haddoke en route, reminding me the nostalgic memory of my past. In Sialkot, I placed the order for the cutlery with one of the leading cutlery manufacturing company and the proceeded to Wazirabad to place order for the crockery. A few days back, I returned to Sialkot to collect the cutlery and crockery from Wazirabad. This was my initial physical contact with Sialkot. But I could not see the city due to shortage of time.

The second time when I traveled to Sialkot, I did it with my family and were mesmerized by the aroma of rice paddies on both sides of the road in area between Gujranwala and Sialkot, which is famous for world famous qualities of rice.  This time I intended to take my grown up kids around for them to see Sialkot. And it was no wonder that I took them to the same cutlery manufacturing company and when I told the owner that I had visited them some three decades ago, he was surprised and flabbergasted. I also took my family to Iqbal Manzil – a place where Dr Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan was born in the late 19th century. 

For me too it was my first visit to this memorable place and I am ever grateful to the curator of the building, who opened the place for us at a very odd time of around 12:30 at night.  Please read my detailed account of visit of Iqbal Manzil from my website Pakistanpaedia. The Sialkot Clock Tower right in the centre of Sialkot Cantonment is yet another landmark of the city. Standing tall for more than a century – dates back to 1876. Sheikh Ghulam Qadir and Seth Rai Bahadur laid its foundation stone. In the company of its four clock faces that still keep track of the passing minutes. It has been renovated many a times but the original structure is not changed.

How Sialkot got into the business of its now thriving sports industry? No one exactly knows, but it is said that during the British rule, a British broke his tennis racquet and, since an immediate replacement was not possible, he asked a local to repair it. The man did a perfect job and the sports goods manufacturing industry took root in Sialkot. Recorded history of the industry goes back to 1895 when the city started becoming famous for its tennis racquets. By 1903, cricket bats were being crafted from imported English willow and exported to different parts of British India and beyond. In 1922, one Mr. Syed was awarded the British Empire Export Award for supplying footballs to the British Army. Over the years the industry grew to include a variety of wood and leather-based sports equipment, and diversified into related industries such as sports apparel and riding equipment and even the Scottish bagpipes. Sialkot was selected to supply footballs for the 1994 and 1998 World Cups. It was once famous as a centre for the manufacture of damascened ware and paper, which dates back to the time of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Sialkoti paper, also known as “Man Singhi paper” was famous all over the world. Now, besides its three chief products, its also manufactures processed foods, ceramics, embroidery, ready-made garments and musical Instruments. Almost every product is exported to the world.

Going to Sialkot (if not by air) and missing out the Sialkot International Airport would be a great miss, since the most commendable feat of the local industrialist to join hands and build the first privately funded international standard airport. This beautiful airport is 13 kilometers west of Sialkot and is linked by a road to Gujranwala, Wazirabad, Gujrat, Narowal, the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and the Sialkot Dry Port Trust. It has the longest runway (3.6 kilometers long) in Pakistan. The runway is suitable for larger aircraft like B-747, A-300, B-737 and F-27 aircraft and would cater the needs and requirements of international flights. PIA now operates domestic and international flights directly from here.
Photo by me
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Asghar Javed said...

This article should be best read sitting at Allah Wala Hotel having Chicken Chanee (their best) and over looking Shaheen Chowk. Nice read.

Jalal HB said...

I wish I'd known this before since Murgh Chanay are my weakness - next time, Shirazi!!

S A J Shirazi said...

And this temp is much more readable for me. Bright!

Jalal HB said...

So one of the lessons is approved