Murree Memories – A Guest Post

Murree Memories (Part 1) is a guest post by a childhood friend – Jason. Jason was born in Pakistan in the mid-1960s to American parents who worked in the central part of the country.  Jason spent most of his grade school and junior high years in Pakistan.  In adulthood he has returned to the South Asian country to help with earthquake recovery and healthcare projects.

It is a fitting post for ten years ago on August 5 there was a terrorist attack against our boarding school in Murree leaving 6 dead and many more wounded. It deeply affected people associated with the school and the community. Jason takes us to Murree through pictures and words put together like poetry. Enjoy a look into this unique place that brings back so many memories.

Like a few hundred other children over the past five-plus decades, I spent a number of my growing-up years in a boarding school in the alpine Murree Hills of northern Pakistan.  Little did I realize at the time how the place would figure in my development, not so much academically, socially, or spiritually, but how it would give me a sense of place.

The town of Murree was established in the early 1850s as a “hill station” by and for the British Raj.  Here, at 7,000 feet, the salubrious climate provided the colonial masters respite from the repressive heat of the Indian plains.  Murree came to be an administrative center of British India during the long summer months.  Several clubs and societies provided entertaining social diversions.  Well-dressed Britons attended plays and dances, played croquet on lush lawns, ate cucumber sandwiches and scones with their tea.  Social standing was maintained with a promenade down the Mall, and especially viz a viz the Indians—the street was off-limits to the native population.

Of course Murree changed after Independence in 1947.  And yet it seemed the town was reluctant to shake off many of the trappings from colonial days.  In particular the names of buildings and roads were slow to lose their British titles.  In the 1970s, when I spent most of my childhood in Murree, the charm of bygone British days was still poignant.  My family lived in Dingley Dell, Braemar House, and the improbably named Utopia House.  (My brother was born in Utopia and says “It’s been downhill ever since.”)  Friends lived in Forest Dell, Bexley House, Marsden, and Park House.

En route to worship at Holy Trinity Church we walked down Mall Road past shops selling walking sticks and Golden Syrup.  A quaint, aesthetically pleasing General Post Office building dominated the intersection at the center of town.  The square steeple of Holy Trinity loomed above the shops halfway down the Mall.

Blogger’s Note: Murree more than any other physical location gave many of us a sense of ‘place’, of belonging and connection. Paul Tournier, a noted Swiss psychiatrist speaks of place – searching for place, finding place, enjoying and occupying place and then being willing to move on to the next place. Murree was the beginning of that circle of life.

(Stay tuned for Part 2 where Jason will give us more word pictures and detail. )

17 thoughts on “Murree Memories – A Guest Post

  1. Came across your blog as I have just returned from my 8th annual trip to Murree. Usually go to our Bible Camp at Khanaspur, but due to security been using Forest Dell in recent years. The Christian School is still going well and although Murree is now hugely congested there are still lots of corners reminiscent of earlier days, and very reflective of Simla and Mussoorie in India. The Holy Trinity Church is still a well maintained beautiful building and oasis in the Mall’s congestion, and the old library opposite still fascinating. Tim

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  2. “…and the improbably named Utopia House….” Jason, I must say this comment about Utopia House was a little offensive!!! :)

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  3. So interesting to hear of the history I didn’t realize Murree had and to be reminded of those place names. I took them so for granted, never realizing they were vestiges of the British Raj!

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  4. out of the twenty years I lived in Pakistan I only got to go to Muree once :( But it was such a wonderful trip, shopping, smell of pine trees, collecting pine cones to bring back to hot, dusty Karachi and all that greenery which my eyes had been aching for!

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    1. Yes! You captured it! The smells of pine mixed with wood fires and chai….amazing. And such a contrast from the heat of the rest of the country. Oh – at our recent reunion my sister-in-law read aloud Immigrant Granny – so so fun! Thanks again for that brilliant piece.

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  5. Jason, thanks for this historical tour of Muree . . . I’ve known and loved Marilyn for over 10 years and know full well how important Muree is to her own sense of place and her life today, but I haven’t known much about Muree’s place in the world. I love learning more and look forward to your next post!

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    1. Cathy – I too loved being reminded of Murree’s place in the world, it’s long history of giving rest from the heat of other parts of Pakistan. Thank you for being interested! It is a gift!

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