Memories Of Model Town - Lahore

Qasim Khan Lahore

by Parkash Tandon

FOR the first generation of professional men in the Punjab it had been the natural thing after retirement to go back to the place they came from, and spend their last years as respected elder, village or small town society. But father’s generation had grown away from their background, for them it was a question to find a congenial place to settle down. While I was still in England my father retired from service, and built himself a house in Model Town, a suburb six miles out of Lahore.

Model Town was a place, the like of which had never been and will never be seen again. It was almost entirely populated by retired government officials, who all addressed each other as Rai Sahib, Rai Bahadur, Khan Sahib or Khan Bahadur, Sardar Sahib or Sardar Bahadur.

Somebody had conceived the idea in 1925 of acquiring a big tract of jungle wasteland, a few miles out of Lahore, dividing it up into plots, and constituting it as The Model Town Co-operative Society. Everyone who bought a plot became a member with a vote in the Society. The plan of the town was completely geometrical. It had a series of concentric circular roads, crossed by four main roads at right angles, and smaller roads in between, all beginning from the inner circle and dividing the area into equal segments. The roads had no name, but the blocks were alphabetically numbered, so that our address was 12G while the house opposite was 12F. To the old school of thought this was quite enough to paint on the gate. Later arrivals started giving their homes poetical names.

The big circular area in the middle was common property and traversed only by footpaths. Only thorny shrubs grew there, but it was intended to become a public park. On its periphery were marked the sites for library, school, barat ghar for housing wedding parties, and other public institutions. Only the club, the hospital and dispensary, and the women’s club had been built so far. There were several private schools. Special areas were set apart for markets and shops. There were a mosque and a temple, perhaps the most attractive examples of modem religious architecture I have seen in India, and a Sikh Gurdwara. For practical measure there were also cremation and burial grounds.