By Ar. Ramsha Rehman
Life offers, opportunities to discover different places but very few leave a mark on one’s memory. The life span I have covered till now offered me with many such opportunities but there are only three places that left a mark on my memory. These places are; Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab Pakistan, Makkah in Saudi Arabia and Jaipur in Rajasthan, India.
Out of these the first and the foremost important place that left irremovable mark on my mind and heart is my birth place, Rahim Yar Khan. A city located in the heart of Pakistan, is an area that bridges Punjab and Sindh, geographically, socially, economically and culturally. While moving from Punjab towards Sindh, Rahim Yar Khan being the last district of Punjab has the colour and taste of both the provinces. Amalgamated so beautifully that it becomes hard to segregate any aspect of its culture to be exclusively Punjabi or Sindhi. This beautiful mixture of different cultures has resulted into a new independent ideology that has its own identity and background.
Rahim Yar Khan is not a newly established settlement, instead it has the privilege to be the land of Pattan Minara; a heritage buildingpresent at the dried up bed of River Hakra. This tower at the ford is a spectaculararchitectural example of the cultural-mix that flourished there, in the span of centuries.
Moreover, Rahim Yar Khan has seen modes and shades of different rules in its history that left their impacts in one form or the other. In some periods of time it became a part of Sindh and sometimes Punjab. On the other hand being a part of the great desert of Rajasthan, currently known as Cholistan, is another major aspect behind the cultural formation of this area.
The city bordered with desert on one hand and river on the other, gives such a beautiful picture of nature where two contrasts stands together. The desert brings in it, hot and arid climate while the river adds greenery to it, thus cooling the hotness of desert and soothing its environment. The three running canals through the body of the city complements life and the city-scape. With all such beautiful natural assets and strong historical background, the city was planned as a district in 1943 by Mr. Fayyaz Udin and got executed by Engineer Noor Ali Zamin Hussaini in 1949-1954.
The beautiful new developments like; Officers colony, Trust colonyand Model Town in the north-east, Satellite Town in the south-east, were all planned aroundbig centralized parks, with pretty wide roads and green belts, offering a safe walkable residential area.The commercial areas well-arranged around every small unit of the residential colonies were offering a good mix-used urban development. While having community activity areas, hospital and education buildings on the prime locations along with their pleasing architecture.With all these facilities the city was like a heaven to reside in. Where one has job, food, pleasure, health and education;all at a walking distance from home. People used to come out from their homes, walk with pleasure and roam around while socializing with each other. There was nothing about which I ever had any feeling of Missing. Everything was well organized and placed in its context.
But, time changed the urban character of the city centre. The urge of commercialization engulfed the primary school present on the main road of residential Colony Haji Muhammad, currently known as Hospital Road. Thus depriving the community with an essential facility that was present in its close surrounding. The green walking tracks just vanished and turned into grey hard roads to incorporate the increasing traffic on the commercialized residential roads. The openness of the area that used to have the lantern of sun is now curtained by multi-storey buildings with a cover of smoke and traffic horns over it. Once visually pleasing residential area has no such visual character anymore. The vision is blocked by the traffic and narrowed by the buildings around it. The place once felt to be ideal for residence now seems to be pinned by the board of no parking.
This gloomy tale does not ends at the planned development of the city centre but is continues, by the greedydevelopers in a more heart breaking way. People living in the old residential areas are forced psychologically to move out of the commercially congested, heavy traffic area, for the sake of peace of mind and a healthy living. On the other hand, the colonies they are being offered by the construction industry as a better replacement, has no concern with health or peace either. One such development is Gulshan-e-Iqbal, planned in 1980s. A development that offers nothing in comparison to the orderliness and serenity of the development done in 1949-1954 (year of implementation of the planning, done by Architect Fayyaz Udin). Neither in terms of land use nor in terms of planning.
The city of Rahim Yar Khan urbanised with time, blatant commercialization took place, traffic saturated the roads and unsustainable technology stepped forward in the name of progress and development. But, this urbanization and progress appears to be at the expense of peace of soul, pleasure of heart, ease of mind, convenience of body, colours of culture and contact with nature.
A run of mill advancement, changing the urban foot print of cities consumed the beauty of the city Rahim Yar Khan as well. The grace of the old development faded away and the new developments offered no glitter in its true spirit.
This tale is the harsh reality of every city now a days. The urge to earn, to be superior and to step forward has pulled the developed vision of city development back in to the times when, one was thriving for ways to make the environment better for living. Looking at this situation, there develops a doubt in my mind that whether we are progressing forward or leading backward. The place that left a mark on my memory has itself turned into a memory.