The comments of Prof. Khwaja Usman Ali (Rtd) on historic photos shared through social media always refresh my old memories about Swat as a princely State. Going through his recent remarks, it brought to my mind the old scenario of the State P.M House. I do not remember the Ox-driven Persian wheel. But the rest are still fresh in my hard disk. On the site of the Commissioner House, there was a long, wide ‘Durbar’ or ‘Mahal Sara’ of the elder Wazir, Hazrat Ali, in which the women folk lived with a hoard of female maids. The garages along with south side were for his cars etc. The old portion of Swat Serana, was his Hujra or male portion of his official residence. To the eastern side was a long line of rooms where the male staff was accommodated, i.e., the Waiters, the gardeners and security personals. On the four sides were lawns and trees of various species. The front portion was very elegant and impressive.
The lawn to the west was very large and kept always mooved by Malis with grass cutter machines. Both the approaches from the north and south had evergreen orange trees, with a painted brick edgings on both sides. In short, it suited to be the palace of a king rather that of his minister. As compared to Wali’s residence, it was much spacious and impressive. Further it was not converted into hotel soon after their dismissal. It was kept closed for a decade probably unused. The female block was allotted to the Chief Secretary as his official residence.
A few staff members were kept for maintenance of the male block. One of the remaining staff included a Mali whose name was Muhammad. He was a friend of my father. So in the summer evenings, I accompanied him and we used to rest on the lush green and soft silky lawn. I was then about seven or eight years old.
Much later, it was converted into Swat Hotel and was run by western management. New suites were constructed on the east and south side that were well furnished and had modern fittings.
As it was a success, the new block was constructed in 1959-61. The plan of this double storey building was prepared on the outlines given by the Wali Ahd, Prince Aurangzeb. It was constructed under the supervision of Nakhwad Captain and Muhammad Karim, Head of State P.W.D.
When I joined State P.W.D in July 1961, this block was almost complete and ready to receive guests. I was part of the team who prepared the electrification bill of the contractors, which was headed by Zaman Ustad. A personal incident is related to this hotel which helped me escape a killer. I was coming from the collage side and I was a fifteen year old minor then. A man came after me, pulling a long bladed knife and wanted to hit me. I ran towards the gate of the hotel and went straight inside. The hotel staff knew me and they hurriedly closed the gate on the face of the scoundrel. He turned back and went away, threating me. I did not understand why he wanted kill me. What happened next is another story.
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