By Rabia Tariq
I saw him a few times at Majinobabo’s home. Last time I saw him was at his son retired General Hidayatur Rehman’s house in Chaklala, Rawalpindi. It was the second day of Eid and my aunty, whom I call Majiniaji, wanted to greet her parents. My family decided to go along with Majinobabo’s family. So it was the last time that I saw Zillullah dada there at his son’s house.
He seemed to be in good health and spirits. Wearing a crochet cap on his head and sitting in a comfy chair placed at the corner of his room, he met us all and received our Eid greetings. He had some swelling in his feet that my father took a look at and assured him that it was nothing serious. Today, Zillullah Dada is no more in person but lives in everyone’s prayers.
He lived to the ripe old age of 97 years old. His father Havilder Muhammad Talha (junior havilder) was a cousin of my great grandfather Subkhan (havilder senior). They were both among the first people from the distant town of Bunji to travel Kashmir for acquiring education. By the grace of God their subsequent generations are now well educated, successful and serving the nation at every level.
The grounds of Bunji are said to be barren but the minds of its inhabitants are beyond ripe. Home to some 10,000 inhabitants Bunji has its own unique history and significance. It’s most important landmark is the Bunji Bridge. Bunji bridge was built on the Indus River in 19th century by Maharaja Pratap Singh during his reign. It was burnt down during the rebellion of 1947 and repaired again soon after. This bridge is a vital link between the town of Gilgit and the locations in the Astore District.
But it was not the first bridge that was built on this river. In 1891 an urgent bridge was made using telephone wires by Captain Aylmer of Bengal Engineering Group (BEG) of Indian Army. Fortify was the first time a bridge was used for crossing the river from Bunji, located on the left bank of the Indus River to the immediate town of Juglot, which is located on the right bank of the river.
District of Gilgit is also located on the right bank of Indus River. Before the construction of this bridge ferries were used to cross the Indus from Bunji to Jaglot.