Chauburji This weeks heading for my column is no typo error, but the faithful rendering of a call that once rang through the 'tonga stands dotting the Lahori scene of yesteryears. Having gained the upper hand in this vocal contest and netting his passengers, the victorious 'tongawala would turn his horse towards his destination and one of the citys greatest landmarks the Rail-way Station. Built in the closing years of the 1850s, the station building was designed by a civil engineer Mr W. Brunton, with a view to be used as a fortification when required. It was structured to withstand direct howitzer artillery shelling and the loopholes in the faade provided a well coordinated field of fire for Maxim Guns. Its huge train sheds could be sealed with sliding metal doors, transforming the whole complex into a massive bunker. The first train from this junction was run to Amritsar in 1860 and later, connections established with Bombay, Calcutta, Pesh-awar, and Karachi. Somewhere in the 1890s, one was apt to witness children from Muslim High School inside Sheranwala Gate scaling the railway embankment and placing 'damris (a coin of the times) on the northbound track on the outskirts of the station. Passing steam locomotives would compress these coins into large rupee sized shapes to the intense glee of the young ones. This game was fraught with risk, but the group of children, which included my grandfather, enjoyed the thrill of it. If the building and platforms of Lahores Railway Station could speak, they would recount the horrors of the butchering during the months that followed the creation of Pakistan. As train after train pulled in with blood streaming from carriages filled with the stench of death and disemboweled corpses of Muslim men, women and children, even the staunchest of hearts quailed at the sight. The same building and platforms were also witness to another, but happier episode soon after Pakistan came into being. This was the making of the epic movie 'Bhawani Junction on the premises. The event drew crowds of fans and onlookers that included by parents. Years later my mother nostalgically remembered the captivating beauty of Miss Ava Gardners eyes and the devastating good looks of Mr Stewart Granger, the female and male leads in the film. As young children, it was always exciting for us to visit the Station to receive and see off relatives and sometimes to take a train journey ourselves. On these occasions, the shift from a sleepy and silent platform to an atmosphere of ear splitting noise, clamour and what appeared to be absolute chaos, as a train chugged in, was an amazing experience. The coolies dressed in their red cloth shirts and metal arm bands were an integral part of the platform scene as were the tea and boiled egg vendors. You could tell that a train was shortly due by the way these red shirted men, would squat in an orderly line on the edge of the platform parallel to the track. Their increasingly expectant fidgeting would tell onlookers that a train was approaching. As the long lines of carriages stopped amidst a huge cloud of steam from the engine, the line of red shirts would suddenly break and swarm up the running boards, offering their services for only eight annas or half a rupee. The waiting rooms and restaurant at the station had their own distinct character with the Raj era class distinction cle-arly evident in the sign posting, interior and the service offered to passengers. Gone now are the long reclining cane chairs and leather sofas. Also gone are the delicious chicken and cucumber sandwiches that have been replaced by Macdonald and other junk foods. Sealed windows to keep air conditioning have almost spelled the demise of the tea and boiled egg vendor, who used to walk along the windows facing the platform, repeating his sing song cry of 'chai garam garam or 'garam aandaii. This then was just a nostalgic fleeting glimpse into the life that was at and around Lahores famous Railway Junction. Perhaps it is time for us to board a steam powered train of the 1950s and take a short journey from Lahore City to Mian Mir to complete our experience but that will come in another column. The writer is a freelance columnist.