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Made in England: A Couple Of Proper Jobs - Chapter 3 - Made in England - The Memoirs of Dr Choudry Mohammed Walayat MBE

I eventually accepted that, at eighteen, it was about time I looked for a proper job. Like a lot of children from working class backgrounds all over the world, the one middle class job I knew something about was teaching. After all, I had observed teachers for fourteen years and had some idea what the job entailed. Therefore, I decided I would try and get a post as a primary school teacher and start to make a contribution towards my society, that had given me the opportunity of a decent education.

My father said he knew someone within our caste who would arrange something for me, but I rejected this way as I wanted to be judged on my own merits. So I approached the District Inspector from the Ministry of Education myself and enquired about teaching posts in our part of Azad Kashmir. He offered me a post in a small rural primary school in Kala But, a hill village in Kusgumma. I was delighted, even though I was told that I would be the only teacher of a school of over sixty pupils split into two large classes. The younger group was aged 5 years to 7, and the older group from 7 till 11. The most important change in the system, since I had been in the primary school at Lidder, was the presence of girls in the school. The new state of Pakistan wanted to start educating its girls and, although many did not yet go to school, about 15% of the pupils at Kala But were girls. Two of them, at least, are in England today, having married husbands in Luton.

As the local teacher I was a bit of a hero in the village and I was given free accomodation by one of the local families during the week. Some weekends I trudged all the way back to see my grandmother, a journey of twenty miles. The journey was hard going both ways as there was only a steep path that climbed over several hills on the journey, even if the views of the surrounding countryside were stunning. I started to be accepted by the villagers and one family were so impressed that they asked me to marry one of their daughters.

She was a nice pretty girl who I am sure has made someone a very good wife, but I was in no position to marry, as I could not possibly afford to have a wife and subsequently a family. Anyhow, I had not seen much of the world at that time and did not want to get stuck in a small village in the hills for the rest of my life, as might have happened.

Working on the Mangla Dam project 1957-61

After six months, although I had enjoyed teaching, I was attracted by the opportunity to work on one of the biggest public works projects ever mounted in Pakistan, and so I applied for a post as a clerk working on the new Mangla Dam. The Government had decided to dam the Jhelum river above Mangla and create a huge lake that would drown numerous villages and some old towns – Mirpur was one of the towns that went “under the waters” of the Dam when it was completed, and a new Mirpur had to be built on higher ground. Mangla Dam was Pakistan’s equivalent of the Aswan Dam in Egypt – under construction at the same time – and would provide drinking water for Pakistan’s growing population and hydro-electric power for industrial and domestic use, plus improved irrigation for agriculture.

I was not very confident that I would be appointed, because I thought all the posts would go to well-educated people from Pakistan, who tended to look down and make fun of people from Azad Kashmir whom they regarded as rather backward. This sort of thing happens in every country, where people at the centre regard people from the remoter areas as slow and ill-educated. This made me even more determined to succeed and so I went off to Lahore for the interviews. I had never been to Lahore before, or very far outside my own area, so it was all a bit of an adventure and something of an eye-opener to be in a big city.

Some parts of the interviews were conducted in English, because they wanted to ascertain our competence in that language, which was so crucial for communication throughout the world, not just in Pakistan itself. I was one of forty candidates for four clerks’ posts, and although I did not know it the Government was keen that some posts on the dam project should go to local people from Azad Kashmir. Whether that was the reason, or whether I just got the post on my own merits, they told me that I was successful and would be given the post of General Clerk with specific duties as Despatcher.

I was now a babu, a position of some status in our society and I was based in Jhelum for a start. I was in charge of sending off all the mail from the office, keeping full records of mail received and delivered and controlling the relevant filing system. I also learned to type, something that I did not find came very easily to me and would eventually, four years later, lead to my resignation. Later, I moved to a sub-station at Mangla town itself, where I was solely in charge of despatches and had a little group of servants to look after my deputy and myself in the office and our room. I felt rather important as I was responsible for a Khalasi (cook), a Bashti to fetch and carry the water from the well, a Chokidar for security, a Peon as a runner and message carrier and, finally a Punkah coolie, to pull the rope all day to work the big fan to keep us cool. Initially, my office was just a tent but after a while we got a building within a “colony”, which had electricity and running water, and so two of my personal staff became redundant and had to leave.

For four years I got on satisfactorily with the routine of the job and enjoyed my position in the community, although when the project was completed all the villages I knew as a child, Gura Domal, Chang, Nalloy and Lidder, were all drowned by the rising waters of the lake created by the dam. If there was disaster for them then there was also near-disaster for me. Two of my friends persuaded me to go for a swim in a nearby canal, and after watching them jump in and start swimming I jumped in myself. My only problem was that I had never learned to swim, because we rarely had sufficient water in the local rivers that was deep enough for your feet to be off the bottom. I soon found out that swimming was not something that one did naturally, and I became exhausted thrashing about trying to stay afloat. I could not reach the bank, so, while my friends thought it was all rather amusing, not realising my predicament, I was swept along by the fast flowing water. Then I was horrified to see that the canal was about to go over a steep drop where I would surely be drowned. Fortunately for me I managed to grab a branch that was overhanging the canal and pull myself out. Happy to be alive, I now had the embarrassment of walking back virtually naked to my clothes almost a mile away on the other side of the canal. Whenever a car came round the corner I jumped into the bushes, because, as a clerk working on the project, I would have been mortified by the indignity if anyone from the project had seen me in a naked state.

One day in 1961 a different kind of disaster struck. The Senior Engineer on the project came down from head office and decided he needed, at short notice, to draft a letter. At his office he would have handed it to one of the typists and it would have been swiftly completed, but here in this outpost there was only me available to type his letter. Whether I was a bit rusty or just overawed by our important visitor, I made a complete hash of the job and the final letter was full of mistakes. However, I did not realise that at the time and I ripped up his original hand written notes and threw them away. When he demanded that the letter be re-written, I panicked. Searching in the waste paper basket I tried to find the pieces and put them together so that I could read his notes, but I found it impossible.

His reaction was quite dramatic. He sent his driver to fetch me in his car, although my office was only three hundred yards away, and then invited me into his bungalow. There in private he told me off in no uncertain manner that was meant to humiliate me and destroy my self-esteem. I suddenly felt totally insulted, even if he was the high and mighty Senior Engineer on the Mangla Project, so I told him to his face that I was not putting up with this tirade and he could keep his job because I was resigning. I felt rather proud of my sense of self-respect, but I had just talked myself out of a job and a good one at that. Never one to do anything by halves, I decided there and then that I would resolve the situation by going to Britain and getting a job there, and it would also enable me to see what the other half of the world looked like.

By Dr. Choudry M. Walayat MBE

Copyright 2009 - Dr. Choudry M. Walayat MBE

You May contact Choudry Walayat on his Mobile - 07941016417 (UK)


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All facts and opinions in this book are the sole responsibility of Dr. Choudry M. Walayat. The book has been written in co-operation with John Cornwell, who produced the final texts of the chapters of the book.