The other day I was sitting with an old school friend, who successfully went into the Food and Beverage Industry and now owns a chain of successful Restaurants. Cribbing about the difficulties in his line of business, which included regulatory red tape and lack of courtesy amongst clients, we began reminiscing about the days, when the ‘well virtually walked up to the thirsty’.

Readers of my generation should consider themselves privileged to have lived in a time, when life was simple and wants were few. Families generally patronized a single source for their needs – one baker, one butcher, one grocer and even one restaurant. A relationship was thus established between the seller and the buyer, where the latter was offered many privileges.

I remember our lemon tarts arriving from Mohkam Din in Nila Gumbad, while all other baked items (less bread) came from Yasin Khan and Sons on the Mall. Some of our groceries and meat was bought from Tollington Market with the added attraction of the ‘best ice cream and milk shakes in the world’ ingested at the homely Tangiers Snack Bar.

My family’s annual four months of summer in Murree was hallmarked by a daily afternoon visit to Lintotts. The ‘Queen of the Hills’ in the nineteen fifties was quite unlike the ‘sardines in a box’ hill station it is today. Families could promenade on the Mall free from fear of being harassed. The Tikka Kebab culture had not yet developed into a mania and uncrowded restaurants served very decent food. Lintotts had the distinction of reserving fixed places for regular clients at a particular time of the day and the management was never disappointed with a vacant table. Our spot for ten was next to the window overlooking the Mall and other friends and families strolling by often stopped on seeing us, for a quick chat.

One of my best memories of the time are linked to vendors, who brought our kitchen supplies to our very doorstep. Nazir kept us supplied with ample quantities of fresh fruit. He would walk up our drive with a jumbo sized ‘tokra’ balanced precariously on his head. He was quite a performer, for after setting down his load on the ground with the help of whoever was close at hand, he would remove the cloth cover with a magician’s flourish. This would be followed by an update on the latest news from the fruit ‘mandi’. This wonderful individual kept up the routine well into my teenage years, but met a tragic end, when he was run over by, of all things – a ‘tonga’.

As the afternoon shadows lengthened into evening, we waited for the familiar sound of a bicycle bell being ‘desperately’ rung by ‘Chaacha Dulla’. We never ever really came to know his real name, but as he unlatched his tin ‘baksa’ and lifted the lid, we were driven into fits of ecstasy by the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread, cookies and plain cakes. Both Nazir and ‘Chaacha’ billed us on a monthly basis and I am not privy to any one instance, where they demanded any other arrangement.

Our electrician was called ‘Suri Sahib’. He would pedal all the way from Dhani Ram Road (near Anarkali) smelling of pan, ‘beeri smoke’ and grease. My mother often said that the man possessed intuitive powers, for he would appear out of nowhere (much like Nanny McPhee), whenever we needed him. This remarkable individual never asked for payment and was quite content with an account of his services maintained by my mater, from which he drew amounts as and when required. I am told that after I had left home to take up a career, Suri Sahib appeared one last time seeking withdrawal of all his assets. Stuffing his earnings into a bag, he bid everyone goodbye. The next day my family heard the news that he had passed away peacefully in his sleep.

I and my better half now have to face grumpy and rude vendors, whenever we go to do our monthly shopping. It is at times like these that I am nostalgically reminded of the time, when we could get much of what we needed sitting in our verandah plus have the additional benefit of a pleasant chat with the likes of Nazir – but then that was almost seven decades ago.