Christmas 1960 in the heat of Pakistan

Sixty years ago I was living in Lahore, Pakistan. Christmas 1960 was going to be different.
My father, a railway signalling engineer, had been seconded by the United Nations from British Railways to lecture on railway signalling at an international college outside Lahore. While there, I learned to swim (after dad had cleared the snakes from the pool), and rider a horse (sitting on what felt like bare bones), and received an object lesson in multinational bullying and fraught relationships.
My late mother kept a diary. These are her notes from Christmas 1960 – sixty years ago when I had just entered double figures.

Christmas Eve
So hard to realise. Attended a dinner given by Mr and Mrs Allinson at the High Commission. Lady Baden Powell chief guest. Tony (my dad) and I attended the Boy Scout Jamboree in the afternoon. Opened by President Ayub Khan (President of Pakistan) and Lady Baden Powell opened the exhibition. Over 5,000 Scouts attended. Very good march past. Contingent representing UK included Tony, Leonard Allinson, Jackson MacLeod – all Scouters.

Christmas Day
Tony and I went to 7am Holy Communion (that would be at Lahore cathedral – traditional English architecture) and after a lazy morning went to Rutters (the eldest, Margaret, lives near me in Leicestershire now! The two boys are also alive) for day. Turkey and plum pudding for lunch. Christmas cake and mince pies for tea. Played games in the evening and home by 8pm. Betsy’s servants arrayed her and Jack and the children with garlands of flowers and a performing monkey did his antics.
After a lovely dinner Jack Rutter was invited to a Muslim wedding. The men guests sat in one room with the bridegroom wore European dress, but his head and face were covered with beads and tinsel so that his face was hardly visible. After the feast the guests returned home and the same ceremony is repeated and the bride is the hostess. And on the third day the actual marriage takes place when the bride and groom meet – probably for the first time. Marriage has no religious connection at all in a Muslim country, and of course the wife has to have a large dowry.
We returned home after having a run into town to see the lights and some Christmas trees. A very happy day, although our thoughts were with those at home.

Boxing Day
Mr Lemain, Operating Lecturer, came for lunch, but had to leave early to meet Father Pierre, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his help with refugees and is spending the money travelling round the world helping refugees.
Richard (that’s me) invited to High Commissioner’s party: we collected him at 5.30pm when he was happily laden with balloons and presents. Whilst he was at the party, Tony and I went into the old city to buy a brass table and brass candlesticks ands brass coffee pot, also a pair of locally made slippers for Tony.
Back home 6pm and Tony went to students’ Christmas dinner. ‘Watch and ward’ pipe band played in the compound.

What strikes me, reading these words, is not so much the terribly middle class Englishness of it all, but the fact that almost any mention of Pakistan is avoided. This was an era when ‘western’ cultures were seen by many as superior. It is also in a very young country; just 13 years since independence from Britain and a religious, factional war that led to the canals and River Ravi literally running red with blood.
In the following 60 years I am thankful that we have learned a lot, especially how to respect different nationalities and cultures.

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