When this week’s piece is published, the nation would be in the midst of Eid celebrations. To readers of my generation, the day would kindle fond memories of a golden era, where people went about their business, free from fear and stresses generated by modern lifestyles. Fear was absent because there was no threat of terrorism and stress was nonexistent, because the impulse to get rich overnight, no matter what the means, was a rare fault of character.

The Second World War had made rationing of certain commodities like flour and sugar mandatory. This system might have been discontinued, had the events of 1947 and Independence not closely followed the end of global conflict. So it was that we continued with the ration system through the decade of the nineteen fifties.

Our ration shop was located on Masson Road, where it takes off from Lawrence Road and could be located from afar because of a large commercial set of scales outside its entrance. Each family was issued with a ration book giving details of members and their authorization of wheat flour and sugar. The book was presented to the store keeper, who made necessary entries and then handed over the rations after weighing them. In spite of the system, we never felt a shortage of necessary commodities nor did people give false information on their cards to get more than what they deserved.

Lahore boasted many well-known bakeries, but the doyen amongst them was Yasin Khan and Sons on the Mall. The bakery was run by three brothers, all of whom played cricket at our house. The trio embodied business ethics and courtesy to the extent that is unimaginable today. I remember an incident, where my mother overpaid one of the salesperson in the shop, while Saeed Bhai (the eldest of three brothers running the establishment) was praying in the back room. The next day, he was standing in our verandah ringing the doorbell, to return the excess amount amidst profuse apologies. I am told that this was not a single case, because he knew the family, but was something that he did with all his customers whenever his hired help made an error.

Nazir was our fruit seller, who walked from house to house carrying a heavy ‘tokra’ or large basket on his head. Having bought a quantity of pink guavas from him, my parents found that the insides of this luscious fruit were not pink. My mother casually mentioned the fact to Naziron his next visit, a week later. It appeared that the sky had fallen on this amazing man, who went into a fit of tearful apologies. Leaving his ‘tokra’ in front of the kitchen door, he almost ran out of our compound, to return an hour and a half later with a fresh batch of guavas. A poor and simple individual, he had foregone an hour and a half of his precious timeat the very thought of carrying a poor reputation with his patrons.

The best lemon tarts in Lahore were made by a bakery in Nila Gumbad called Mohkam Din and Sons, and whenever my mother visited Anarkali, she would stop over and buy a dozen tarts for us. On one occasion she returned empty handed with the news that the owners had dumped the entire stock of tarts for the day in the trash can, simply because their baker had not followed the ‘secret’ recipe. I am sure that customers buying the product would not have felt the difference, but this small oversight was not acceptable to the quality conscious establishment.

And the best story of this piece concerns one of the legendary Anglo -Indian traffic sergeants of Lahore, who stopped a car for violating traffic rules, to find that it was being driven by the sitting Governor. Unawed, the cop issued a ticket to the driver, who apologized for his transgression. We neither have such dedicated and morally courageous cops nor do we have Governors, who drive their own cars, meekly accept a traffic ticket and apologize to the cop that booked them.

The writer is a historian.