Pre-partition inn reminder of bygone era

Pre-partition inn reminder of bygone era

RAWALPINDI:

Nestled behind a tree outside the Rawalpindi railway station is Liaquat Residence, a small inn dating back to the pre-Partition era.

When it first started serving weary travellers, the lanes outside the railway station were stacked with such overnight inns, with wooden beds (charpais) covering the roads in the evenings.

Now, the Liaquat Residence is the only such establishment offering economical lodgings. The rest have morphed into hotels or other businesses.

Muhammad Saad, who took over from his father two decades ago, says his family had owned the inn and held its lease since before Pakistan came into being.

“We can accommodate between 40-50 guests at night,” he told The Express Tribune outside his small setup. The charpais are lined next to one another in the verandah outside, with the old fig (peepul) tree providing much-needed shade.

The central section of inn comprises an open-air arrangement, with an adjacent shed housing around 10 to 15 beds.

A pedestal fan serves between four to five beds. This is the norm in summers, says Saad. He added that customers were provided blankets during winters.

“Back in the day, it cost even less than a rupee to spend the night,” he says. “When I joined around 20 years ago, it was Rs60. Now, we rent out a bed for Rs150,” said Saad.

When he started, the people employed at the inn would poach passengers from the train station to keep ahead of the competition. Now, with most inns turned into super stores or markets, that particular clientele seeking to spend the night make a beeline for the Liaquat Residence, Saad continues. “We are currently the only saraia (inn) at the Rawalpindi railway station.”

The majority of the guests hail from the less-privileged class, seeking respite from the high costs of hotel accommodations. Consequently, they opt for the inn, exclusively for a one-night stay, he explained.

Two innkeepers are stationed during the night to ensure the safety of the guests and their belongings.

Saad says that one of the reasons they get recurring customers is their emphasis on cleanliness. The bed sheets are changed daily, he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th2023.


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