A man long forgotten

Published: October 22, 2012
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The writer is the Chairperson of the History Department at Forman Christian College, Lahore

The writer is the Chairperson of the History Department at Forman Christian College, Lahore

Sir Malcolm Hailey, sometime governor of Punjab, once wrote for someone that “he won like a hero and gave like a saint”. That person was also called, “the Architect of modern Lahore” and “the first modern South Asian philanthropist” by the people. This person was indeed Sir Ganga Ram, once the executive engineer of Lahore division.

A few days ago, I went around Lahore with some friends to find the samadhi (tomb) of Sir Ganga Ram. I knew that he had died in July 1927 in London, but that his ashes had been brought back to his beloved Lahore, with some scattered on the Ganges. Finding the tomb was a feat, since most people around the Karim Park area off Ravi Road seemed to have forgotten this great son of Lahore. Trying to pass the construction for the Lahore Bus Transit System, I wondered how it compared with the rapid expansion of Victorian Lahore and how people then dealt with the dust, noise, complicated navigation and simple nuisance of the development work at that time. Are we more planned, prepared and efficient now, I wondered?

After asking around for some time, a local directed us along a small alley way to a rather modern and simple-domed structure. After we negotiated our way into the walled-off structure, we were simply shocked that the samadhi itself was being used as a cowshed by the ‘caretaker’. The marble slab of the samadhi had been broken at several places and the stench and dirt of animal urine and excrement made standing inside the tomb unbearable.

While talking to the local residents, I gathered that this structure was relatively new and that the original structure was destroyed during the riots in 1992, following the demolition of the Babri Mosque in India. One of the older men told me that even though they knew that this was not a Hindu temple and that Sir Ganga Ram had done a lot for Lahore, ‘passions’ overtook the men who attacked the tomb over a period of three consecutive days. Locals told me that the old structure had a beautiful water tank around it and was covered with dazzling marble. The structure was so sound that it took them two days to just break into the dome. It was startling that the police did not bother to stop them and rather, abetted the attack on the tomb.

The state of Sir Ganga Ram’s tomb, I think, says a lot about our society — not just of today, but also of the last few decades. It shows that we are so senseless and ungrateful as a society that we did not even spare from our rage, the person who practically made modern Lahore and left most of his fortune for the benefit of Lahoris. We simply forgot that Sir Ganga Ram founded the Sir Ganga Ram Free Hospital in 1921, that Sir Ganga Ram’s house in Lahore, Nabha House, was the first home of the Hailey College of Commerce, that he endowed the Lady Mclagan School for Girls and that he built the Renala Khurd Power Station out of his own money. This is, of course, in addition to forgetting that Sir Ganga Ram supervised the construction of almost everything which is iconic in British Lahore — the General Post Office, the Museum, Aitchison College, Mayo School of Arts and Model Town, among others.

It also shows the recurring patterns in our society. Just as both Muslims and Hindus went on a rampage against each other in 1947, the destruction of the Babri Mosque in 1992 elicited the same rage. We seem to have forgotten how in 1992, a number of still-remaining testaments of our Hindu past were deliberately obliterated. The recurring patterns, their planned nature and their continuation in different forms are certainly issues to ponder upon.

But, perhaps, all this shows we are not a ‘society’ in the sociological sense after all. Maybe, we are just a bunch of self-seeking, often bloodthirsty, illiterate people who mainly keep on destroying our own life and surroundings. The irony of Manto’s story of 1947, about the statue of Sir Ganga Ram being brought down on the Mall and the person injured during the process being ‘rushed to Sir Ganga Ram hospital’ is still certainly lost on people here. Perhaps, there is no need now to repair or care for his tomb; Sir Ganga Ram should have thought of better use of his money.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (37)

  • Pessimist
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:22PM

    “…But, perhaps, all this shows we are not a ‘society’ in the sociological sense after all. Maybe, we are just a bunch of self-seeking, often bloodthirsty, illiterate people who mainly keep on destroying our own life and surroundings…”

    Well written, reflects what we are!

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  • Indian Wisdom
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:22PM

    “The state of Sir Ganga Ram’s tomb, I think, says a lot about our society — not just of today, but also of the last few decades. It shows that we are so senseless and ungrateful as a society that we did not even spare from our rage, the person who practically made modern Lahore and left most of his fortune for the benefit of Lahoris. ” How true!!!

    Even my city (Delhi) has a “Sir Ganga Rm Hospital” never knew about the story behind that hospital. Thanks for sharing…… Accept my gratitude!!!

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  • Uza Syed
    Oct 22, 2012 - 11:33PM

    “…………….our Hindu past were deliberately obliterated………….” ‘Our Hindu past’?! Yaar Bangash Shib, what are you talking about our ‘Hindu past’? Have you forgotten what 99% of us are told, believe and give their lives to deny; ask any of us, at random, out there and let me assure you of an answer based upon our common conviction that we all, without any exception, are descendents of anything, anyone but Hindus. Want to bet with me?

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  • sabi
    Oct 23, 2012 - 12:12AM

    Author
    Thanks for giving us some insight on to the fate of Sir Ganga Ram’s tomb.Regret and regret.
    I put the blame on some of our short sighted rulers who have left no stone unturned to destroy the commen heritage.Lyallpur was sold to shah faisal for nothing but few buks.I hope someone from lahore will pay attention to it.

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  • Anwar Ahmad
    Oct 23, 2012 - 12:14AM

    We have lost every value attributed to human being and have chosen to show animalistic behaviours. Too sad degradition.

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  • yousaf
    Oct 23, 2012 - 1:04AM

    We are a highly progressive people.We always look ahead of us.We do not believe wasting our time thinking about those who did something that is not so extraordinary and are not there to see us praising them.I ‘agree’ with the man (if he can be called a-man) who wanted to change the name of Ganga-Ram-hospital because Ganga Ram being a non-Muslim can’t be our hero.Indian film heroes is a different thing don’t confuse them with social workers like Ganga Ram.He was just an engineer and liked to build buildings,that’s all and all is that

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  • Oct 23, 2012 - 1:08AM

    I saw those pictures on Facebook. Inner side of sir Ganga Ram’s tomb was full with filthy dirt. This nation has no sense of architectural affiliation, sense of appreciation or history. same is the case with surroundings of Lahore fort; as those are filled with garbage, waste and dirt. Only God knows better what this society is…..

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  • Asif Ali khan
    Oct 23, 2012 - 1:13AM

    Thank you Yaqoob khan for reminding us the services of Ganga Ram,He was a great man in real sense.This great man died 86 years ago,what he did for the common people was great service which even to day our governments can’t do since last 65 years after the so called independence in 1947. People like Ganga Ram were very fortunate that they did not see with their own eyes the killings & bloodshed of Muslims,Hindues&sikhs who were living as brothers/sisters since centuries & sharing all good & bad.Some leaders for the selfish reasons make them enemies of each others.In the name of religion Muslims were made thirsty of the blood of Hindues & Sikhs and vice versa.
    We have proved that we are a crowd & not a society of responsible people.Presently our society is closed to collapse. I believe that the collapse of a society is even more dangerous than the collapse of a state.If a state collapses it can re emerge with new name & leadership but once a society collapses it is horrible.Present state of affairs is very unfortunate.Our leaders are liers,corrupt,hypocrites,selfish & incompetent.common people are equally corrupt in their limits.
    Leaders are not born but made.It is not possible that this society will produce a selfless person like Ganga Ram.

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  • zeeshan
    Oct 23, 2012 - 1:52AM

    Just beautifull…

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  • Alamgir
    Oct 23, 2012 - 2:44AM

    Liberal fascists lose no opportunity to denigrate beloved Pakistan it seems. If this Ganga Ram gave anything to Lahore it is more than compensated by Pakistan’s generous protection of Hindus even though their idolatry is offensive to everything we believe. So no need to get emotional.

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  • Mirza
    Oct 23, 2012 - 3:13AM

    A really nice Op Ed on a great topic and shows us the mirror. Thanks for that both the writer and ET. We need to look into our history and rich culture not the middle east and S. Arabia.

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  • Lala Gee
    Oct 23, 2012 - 3:31AM

    Hassan Nisar, the famous Urdu columnist had also written about the great Ganga Ram and his contributions in the development of Lahore. Since then, I had immense respect and gratitude for the gentlemen. His tomb certainly deserve better care and recognition. However, mal-handling his tomb by an illiterate ignorant person is in noway an indication that the knowledgeable people (Muslims) do not admire him for his benevolence and contributions. The ordinary people’s attitude towards his tomb is not any different than how they treat the graves of their own kith and kin – visit sometime the mega ‘Miani Sahib’ grave yard and you’d notice most of the grave go unattended after only a few years of initial care. Another prominent Hindu name in the history of Lahore city’s Diyal Singh, who founded and funded Diyal Singh College and Diyal Singh Library in Lahore.

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  • Maria
    Oct 23, 2012 - 5:05AM

    @Pessimist: I don’t think that the actions of a few illiterate and emotional miscreants should tarnish the name of all Pakistanis but your point is well made. As a people we are often thankless and thoughtless – the same can be said of al Muslim nations. I have seen so many Muslims in North America and Europe who live on welfare or state khayrat because they don’t work but prefer to live off the tax money of Westerners. Then they curse the same Westerners. There is no excuse for such bizarre behaviour. This is common among Muslims in the UK, many of whom don’t work but have time to curse the hand that feeds them.

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  • Mohammed
    Oct 23, 2012 - 6:41AM

    @Alamgir: Surely you are joking Mr. Alamgir!

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  • Raw is War
    Oct 23, 2012 - 8:05AM

    How can he be remembered? He is a Hindu. What did he do to glorify Islam?

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  • Anonymous
    Oct 23, 2012 - 8:05AM

    “The state of Sir Ganga Ram’s tomb, I think, says a lot about our society — not just of today, but also of the last few decades.”

    Not just a few decades but several centuries. Islamic countries have been barbaric for several centuries. It’s nothing new. This barbarism was brought to South Asia by a few invaders.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Oct 23, 2012 - 8:09AM

    Unfortunately there is no Manto to record the deeds of modern day pirates and the country does not look like being in a condition to produce another philanthropist like Ganga Ram. Why did the bandits destroy only his tomb and not all his other creations ?

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  • gp65
    Oct 23, 2012 - 8:39AM

    @Alamgir: “If this Ganga Ram gave anything to Lahore it is more than compensated by Pakistan’s generous protection of Hindus even though their idolatry is offensive to everything we believe. So no need to get emotional.”

    Wow just wow. The fact that the few remaining Hindus have not been killed or forcibly converted in Pakistan is a favour tp Gangaram? Hindus worshipping in their own temples offends you? IT is precisely because of people like you that no-one pays an attention when Muslims cry about being offended.

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  • ksri
    Oct 23, 2012 - 9:10AM

    It is better to leave the tomb to die its natural death. The tomb and its silent inhabitant belonged to an age and time when Lahore patronized people of all religions. The tomb would be a misfit in today’s Lahore.

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  • DarKnight
    Oct 23, 2012 - 12:13PM

    @yousaf:

    Exactly that what author was saying”ungrateful” or “ehsaan faramosh

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  • Zeeshan
    Oct 23, 2012 - 12:14PM

    The sudden love for Ganga Ram and Bhagat Singh among Pakistani liberals is extremely interesting. Through this supposed cover of “Hindu past”, Pakistani liberals spoke of something much more deeper from their psyches. They internalized the supposed narrative of Muslim bigotry toward Hindus while feigning that Hindus including the likes of Ganga Ram were victims of that Muslim bigotry.

    Ganga Ram, first and foremost, didn’t create or build Lahore. Ganga Ram was a civil engineer trained in the West and who built buildings in Lahore, Amritsar etc inspired by British architecture. So, it is extremely insulting to call him as “the father of modern Lahore” when the iconic modern day symbols of Lahore are its Mughal architecture. Lahore, just in case Pakistan liberals have forgotten, has been a Muslim city for a thousand years before this man migrated 40 miles into Lahore. I agree with the premise that Ganga Ram was a marvelous engineer, architect and philanthropist whose works donned much of pre-1947 Punjab and should be appreciated for that: if he were merely credited for those work, one could appreciate the reasons for it.

    But, Ganga Ram represents something much more sinister for Pakistani Liberals and Indians. It was through him that Pakistani liberals atoned for the manifestation of Pakistan.

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  • Waqas Tariq
    Oct 23, 2012 - 1:25PM

    its horrible to hear this.

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  • RJ
    Oct 23, 2012 - 4:43PM

    Its odd that I cannot remember being taught about Ganga Ram during my school days. Probably because he was conveniently left out of our history books.
    No wonder millions of our youth are totally misguided and confused and have no real heroes to look up to as role models.

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  • Procrastinator
    Oct 23, 2012 - 6:17PM

    The irony of Manto’s story of 1947,
    about the statue of Sir Ganga Ram
    being brought down on the Mall and the
    person injured during the process
    being ‘rushed to Sir Ganga Ram
    hospital’ is still certainly lost on
    people here.

    It certainly has. Don’t believe me, here’s how
    1. You curse and attack interests of a country day in day out and then expect to be rewarded with Financial Aid and Place at world stage.
    2. You received heavy Arms as Aid from a country and used the same Arms to attack embassies and soldiers of the country.
    3. You enjoy ACs, Cars, Mobiles, Medicines and all modern luxury items produced by Kafir but wont do business directly with them citing prohibitions in Quran.
    4. You would rape a hindu/christain girls(rape since they are minors) before Forcefully converting them to Islam but wont eat or drink with fellow country men who is non-muslim.

    need more example, I bet I don’t need to write more to enlighten you all. there are million more you can see happening daily around you if have not been brain washed by a mullah.

    adios

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  • Indian
    Oct 23, 2012 - 7:51PM

    If Mr.GangaRam and Mr.babr were alive today , India would have surely swapped Mr.Babar with pakistan for Mr.Gangaram . Let Mr.babar build million mosques in pakistan and Let Gangaram build millions of Hospitals in India . What is the advantage of these old useless structures over the hospitals , built and named after a invader ?Gangaram and babar fall in wrong hands

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  • kumail
    Oct 23, 2012 - 8:32PM

    It would be great if you would have shared some PICTURES as well.

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  • Procrastinator returns
    Oct 23, 2012 - 9:04PM

    Conspiracy theorist Cap: ON

    An utter lie about a figure who never existed in Lahore or else where, spread by liberals, fascists, Hindu Zionists, america, raw, CIA, mossad, Israel, Papa new Guinea(credit: NFP).

    A person name Ganga Ram never existed in Pakistan or else where. The original name of the hospital was “Gangnam“. Gangnam was Gazi in the 16th(made up) century who played great role in making Lahore what it is now and spread the word of Allah to every nook and corner of Lahore.

    He rode his horse through the city of Lahore making it pure for the present day inhabitants. He riding his horse was his trademark, which is now even reflected in the song composed for his honour by Psy of Soutth Korea.

    It is time now for people of Pakistan to know and accept this long forgotten hero and correct the name of the Hospital to “Gangnam”

    Conspiracy theorist Cap: Off

    Oh Zahid….. you have been, are and will remain to be an inspiration for youth of Pureikstan.

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  • Cynical
    Oct 24, 2012 - 2:11AM

    @Yaqoob Khan Bangash

    Your’s is an enlightened soul. You surely have made your parents, elders, teachers proud of you. Wish I had more people like you around me.
    Even though an agnostic myself, wouldn’t hesitate to proclaim,
    God bless you.

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  • Manjit Singh
    Oct 24, 2012 - 4:55AM

    When sir ganga ram was the engineer of Lahore another prominent sikh was the architect – Bhai ram singh who designed all the grand structures of british Lahore.

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  • Rakib
    Oct 24, 2012 - 7:09PM

    Perhaps, there is no need now to repair or care for his tomb; Sir Ganga Ram should have thought of better use of his money. (Author)

    The anguish is understandable. A remarkable essay with words from the sensitive heart of the Author. The final solution may be for the City to acquire the premises, demolish the tomb altogether & convert the “Samadhi” Area in to a small but well equipped Veterinary Clinic for the free care of pets. Sir BR may well approve.

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  • Cynical
    Oct 24, 2012 - 8:06PM

    @Rakib

    ‘Sir GR may well approve.’
    I am sure he will. He was a compassionate man.

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  • Rakib
    Oct 24, 2012 - 8:32PM

    @Cynical:

    Thank you very much for the correction, done so delicately, as well as the endorsement.

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  • Cynical
    Oct 24, 2012 - 9:03PM

    @Rakib

    Honestly speaking ‘correcting’ was far from my mind.
    To endores, I needed to quote the line and had to get it right.
    I am familiar with your posts (actually look forward to read them) and knew that it was a mere ‘typo’.
    Please keep posting when you find a subject of interest and time.
    Yours is one of the saner voices among the crowd (from either side of the border) that throng the ET comment pages.
    I know you are among the minorities today, but do not give up.
    Regards.

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  • Rakib
    Oct 26, 2012 - 7:27AM

    @Cynical:

    Thank you, you are very kind. Your screen-name belies you. Your words remind me much of a fine man who is product of the composite culture, an eminent doctor & author & a great internet-friend who has the same affection & sense of fairness towards Pakistanis & Indians alike.

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  • Cynical
    Oct 26, 2012 - 1:52PM

    @Rakib

    Thanks a lot. That was a big compliment. Hope I can live upto the expectations of my friends,teachers and parents.

    Regards.

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  • Mahmood Saeed
    Oct 27, 2012 - 5:26AM

    Shame, shame and heaps of shame on all of us and especially all our leaders, more particularly the champions of Punjab and Lahore.

    This is a very sad story and a damning condemnation of our societal and individual behaviour. .

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