Rafed English

Journey from Bombay to Mashhad

Departure from Bombay

It was a pleasant day. It was the day of the fulfillment of months ,rather years of old earnest desire and hope. It was a memorable day of my life and it was Friday, the 18th of Moharram 1385 A.H.(corresponding to 30th July 1926).On that day I started at 8:30 PM by Gujrat Mail from Colaba Station with prayers and good wishes from my relatives and well-wishers. My Beloved destination was the holy city of Mashhad-e-Muqaddas. We were, in all, 17 persons that included my wife, my seven children aged 12 (Sakina), 11 (Zehra), 9 (Mohammedali), 8 (Roshanali), 5 (Hyderali), 3 (Razaali), and 1 (Narjis); in addition to 5 other ladies and a female servant and a cook. We had purchased tickets for Duzdaab (Zahedan) via Ahmedabaad and Hyderabad Sind. The second class fare from Colaba to Duzdaab (Zahedan) was rupees 105-75 and for third class fare was rupees 36-00.We had reserved two compartments of seven seats each. In order to get this facility at every station of changing we had sent a telegram through the Station Master of Colaba and he gave us a copy of the same. At that time fifty inches of rain had already fallen in Bombay. It was raining throughout the night after our departure.

We reached Ahmedabad at 7:30 AM the following morning. The train for Sind Hyderabad was scheduled to start from here at 8:05 AM. We hurriedly transported our luggage engaging 2 coolies, went to the other platform and boarded the already reserved compartments in the Hyderabad bound train. We had ordered our breakfast from Bombay from a Muslim caterer who had brought Paya (Pacha), Cream, Maalpura, bread, eggs, etc. But as there was no time to take the breakfast on the station we took it into utensils and ate it in the train. One second class and one third class bogie is added to this train at Ahmedabad that takes us directly to Hyderabad. It is marked Ahmedabad Hyderabad. Everyone should board this bogie otherwise one would require to change bogies at Marvad station, which is troublesome. When the train left Ahmedabad we could see continuous greenery on both sides that gave a nice cooling effect to our eyes. Now we shall see how long this green blanket spread by nature continues.

The train reached Mehsana at 9:47 AM. We took tea there as no time was available at the Ahmedabad Station.

We arrived at Aboo road station at One Oclock after noon. Here tea, bread, gravy (salun), kabaabs were available. We had it along with the food we had brought with us. Proceeding further, the train entered Marvaar junction at 5:21 in the evening. Here tea, bread etc. prepared by a muslim caterer was available. The behavior of the station master was also very nice. With a view to make advance arrangements beyond Hyderabad requested him to send a telegram and give us a copy of the same. Though this instruction was telegraphed from Colaba, we did it again to be on the safe side. As we were going for a Pilgrimage he expressed his pleasure and also hoped that we would meet him in our return journey. Here it is necessary to carry drinking water upto next afternoon as only salty water was available upto Hyderabad. Water had to be carried in mashqs. We filled 12 such jute mashqs that were with us.

We reached Luni at 8:16 in the night. Here Muslim caterers tea, bread and mutton were available. As we had brought our eatables and since the servants bogie was adjacent to our second class compartment we were preparing items like tea ourselves. After taking food we went to sleep.

We arrived at Gadraa road 5:30 A.M. on Sunday, 1st August. The station was big and the train halted for ten minutes, but neither tea nor water was available.

Thereafter we arrived at Chhor at 8:30 A.M. Here muslim caterers tea was available. Sometimes mutton too could be had. Water was very sweet but I do not know if its quality was good too. Here I recollect that the green carpet of nature had disappeared. Instead a white carpet of sand was spread. There was no sign of any vegetation except scantily scattered trees like babool or aak. Mountains were also of sand. Our cook had prepared breakfast of tea, bread, omelet etc. From here to Duzdaab (Zahedan) we were cooking our food in the train as we had brought stoves and eatables etc. with us.

Finally we reached Meerpur Khaas at 10:45 A.M. Tea, bread, mutton, fruit etc. was available at this station. Many Sindhi gentlemen were seen here. The civil Hospital is near the station. The place is large and beautiful. Proceeding further we could see a number of canals and their branches. Even in the midst of the sandy land we can observe fields and gardens. Is there anything that this black headed man cannot do with the resources and means provided by nature? The prosperity of Punjab and Sind has thus been very much increased with the help of these canals that have turned millions hectares of desert lands into fertile fields. We saw such canals almost everywhere. Today a lot of dust is blowing on the way since morning. Hence it will be better to wear green glass spectacles. It will also prove useful during the car journey from Duzdaab (Zahedan) to Mashhad

At last we arrived at Hyderabad (Sind) at 12:30 in the afternoon. Here we had one and a half hour at our disposal since the Quetta bound train coming from Karachi was to leave this station at 2:19 PM. A little distance from here is the holy place where the footprints of Hazrat Ali (A.S.) have been imprinted. We wanted to visit that place but since we had no time we decided to put it off till we returned from Mashhad. Fifteen minutes were spent in alighting and keeping our luggage aside. We had no difficulty as the Quetta mail was to arrive at the same platform. We accommodated ladies and children by taking them across the over bridge to the ladies waiting room. Thereafter we went to a small refreshment room of Muslim caterer on the station to dine. Immediately after alighting we inquired about our reservation of our accommodation from Karachi but the station master had informed us that on that day army had demanded 2-3 bogies. Yet they had arranged for us a complete small bogie having two five seat compartments on both the sides plus a servants compartment in the middle. The availability of the said special bogie had helped us in our onward journey as it had enabled us to cook the said vegetables (which we purchased from Ahmedabad) on our primus stoves. Thus besides getting hot dishes, we did not have to depend on the low quality market food. Before the departure of the train we again requested the station master to get our seats reserved from Spezand (near Quetta) through a telegram. We started at 2:30 PM. The train that was running at the speed of 30 miles per hour on the narrow gauge between Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, was now running at the speed of 40-45 mph on the broad gauge line. It was speeding on the plains as if it had realized our infelt desires to reach our destination as soon as possible. The temperature was cool ever since we left Bombay and we thought it would continue but now contrary to our expectations, it was getting warmer. The temperature at Bombay was 80-85F when we left. Here it was 95 Fahrenheit.

When we reached Shahdadpur at 4 Oclock the temperature was 100Fahrenheit. Tea was available here.

We reached Rohri junction at 8:10 at night. It is a big city and there is a lot of din and rush here. Here on the platform tea, bread was being sold as well as hot salun, kabab, seekh prepared before our eyes. It is like a reversing station. The train pushed forward in another direction with the engine at the rear.

At 8:50 PM we arrived at Sakker, barrage of which is well known for big canal projects. This city is situated on the bank of the famous Indus river. Here the railway bridge is worth seeing. We ate wheat and bajra chapati with salun (gravy), thanking ALLAH. It was still very hot. When I saw the barometer the mercury stood at 96 Fahrenheit though the electric fans were on.

We reached Sibi that is in Baluchistan at 4 AM where we were fast asleep. The Baluchistan authorities check passports at this place. They do not wake second class passengers but they awake third class travellers. The passport officials who embark here remain here till the border of Baluchistan. So far in Sind the land was 2000-4000 feet above sea level. Hereforth the train began to climb up the mountains. Sibi is situated 433 feet above sea level. We had already passed through 10 to 15 tunnels before we woke up at 5:30 in the morning. Our train was climbing between the mountains. It was noteworthy that whereas the hills on the way to Poona remains green even in hot seasons (due to the trees), the hills and vales here were barren and desolate. There was no sign of vegetation. On inquiring we found out that there is rainfall of hardly 1 to 2 inches in a year.

At 6:17 A.M. we reached Aab-e-Goom, which is 2157 feet above sea level. Temperature was 82 Fahrenheit. Air was very pleasant. Only water was available here. Two engines, one in front and one at the back, are joined to the train here, the train climbs above. We passed through tunnels every now and then.

We reached Mach at seven in the morning. It is at a height of 3246 feet above sea level. Temperature is 84 Fahrenheit. Here we get biscuits, tea, etc. for break-fast. Water here is cold, sweet and tasty. It is recommended that water should be filled here in ample quantity. Baluchi people are seen at stations and on the way.

The train arrived at Spezand at 9:51 in the morning. It then proceeds to Quetta. The trains bound for Duzdaab (now known as Zahedan) take another route from here. The train for Duzdaab (Zahedan) leaves here twice a week i.e. on Mondays and Thursdays. Spezand is at a distance of 16 miles from Quetta. The train that leaves Quetta at 8 A.M. reaches here at 9:44 A.M. and leaves from here at 10:14. We had left Bombay in such a way that we arrive here at 9:51 A.M. and got into the waiting train that had come from Quetta and was going to Duzdaab (Zahedan). Thus we were spared the trouble of going to Quetta and the extra expense. Our separate compartment was detached from the Hyderabad train and was attached to the Duzdaab (Zahedan) train. In that way we also saved the trouble of getting in and out of the train with all our luggage again. It may be remembered that Spezand is merely a transfer station; nothing is available here; not even water. There is no platform on this station. There is a shortage of coolies. Enough food should be carried to last until reaching Duzdaab (Zahedan) as there is no guarantee of getting it on the way. We had, before leaving Bombay, sent a telegram through Faiz-e-Panjetani to arrange for food from Quetta to Spezand. Their representative had come with biryaani, chicken, chapati (bread) and fruits. We paid the bill of rupees nineteen and six annas. I empathetically advise every brother who wishes to go to Mashhad-e-Muqaddas that instead of going to Quetta, he should get transferred from Spezand but he should arrange the time of his departure from Bombay according to railway schedule explained earlier. Spezand is 5858 feet above sea level. That is, if we consider the Rajabai Tower of Bombay (Bombay University) to be 200 feet high, we were at a height equal to 30 times of Rajabai Tower. The climate is very dry. There is no sign of any greenery. In the mornings the temperature is 86 Fahrenheit. It should be remembered that after Sibi tea is not available at any station because very few people drink tea in this area. Moreover on every station one or two soldiers with open bayonets are on guard as the stations are in desolate places and the construction is such that if robbers etc. enter the only iron gate is closed. The walls have holes on every side so that the guns can be used safely from within. As there is an acute shortage of water upto Duzdaab (Zahedan), I strongly recommend that enough quantity of water should be taken from whichever station available. Passports of second class passengers are checked here. The passport officer also travels in the train. He makes the necessary entries and returns these after two or three stations. A few police officers remain in the train upto Duzdaab (Zahedan). Henceforth the train starts descending.

We reached Mastung Road Station at 12:30 afternoon. Water is available here and sometimes also some fruits.

Adapted from the book: "Pilgrimage to Mashhad" by: "Haji Davood Haji Naseer"

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