Rishi Sunak and Gujarat

As we know, Rishi Sunak was born in Southampton, England. His parents earlier lived in East Africa. And one or both grandfathers were from Gujranwala in West Punjab.

So it is a little odd to find a place named Sunak in a particularly isolated place in Aravalli district of Gujarat.

It lies on the Himatnagar-Dungarpur section of the Ahmedabad-Udaipur line. This section was opened in the mid-1960s on metre gauge, and reopened on broad gauge in late 2022. This is about 118 km from Ahmedabad and 180 km from Udaipur. The line is presently served by a single pair of express trains, which do not stop at many stations including this one.

According to reports in Gujarati papers, the station was originally called Sunokh and was recently renamed to Sunak.

(Naturally, his ancestors from Gujranwala would have no reason to travel here).

This picture was taken in 2016 when metre gauge trains were still running.

Now see this article in a recent Gujarati newspaper, with a current picture of Sunak station on broad gauge:

If you can read Gujarati, the gist seems to be that the station was renamed recently when the line was converted. On the face of it, this seems to be true.

However, I have looked at timetables going back to 1994 and have seen the station was listed as Sunak and never as Sunokh. This is not the only case where the name in the timetable does not match with the actual sign at the station. This has been commented on by many researchers, such as the indefatigable Jim Fergusson. In fact, the Fergusson station lists also show that it was always listed as Sunak in timetables going back to the 1960s.

I would think that the station was originally supposed to be called Sunak but the painter for some reason painted it as Sunokh. Supervision of small things like this is often lax. Finally someone noticed this and changed the sign when the new line was opened.

Hope that someone forwards this to 10 Downing Street, before someone starts claiming that the Sunak family was actually from Gujarat.

Footnote: The Fergusson station lists can be found here:

https://www.branchline.uk/jf.ph

Go to Asia, then India and then the zone which presently covers your area of interest.

Thanks to Ganesh Iyer for locating these pictures.

The importance of Sheikhupura

The city of Sheikhupura in Pakistan was in the news recently:

https://www.geo.tv/latest/192419-sikh-pilgrim-who-went-missing-in-pakistan-found-from-sheikhupura

There is a happy ending as he was promptly deported to India a few days later.

Sheikhupura is on the route from the Atari/Wagah border to Nankana Saheb, where special trains from India run occasionally for the benefit of Sikh pilgrims. The main stations on the way are Lahore and Qila Sheikhupura:

Qila Sheikhupura

There is a video on Youtube produced by a passenger on of the pilgrim trains, showing it passing through these stations:

Nankana Saheb is not really a major railway station. Timetables of the 1930s and 1940s show it as a wayside station served by two pairs of passenger trains between Lahore and Shorkot Road (now Shorkot Cantt). In recent years an express has started running on this route which stops at Nankana Saheb and several other stations.

Those who follow cricket closely would remember that Sheikhupura had staged two Test matches and two ODIs in the 1990s. The first Test was against Zimbabwe in 1996, where Wasim Akram’s record of 12 6s in his 257 not out is still a world record for an innings. In fact, it was a match record until RG Sharma hit 13 sixes in a match in 2019.

With Saqlain Mushtaq (79) he put on 313 for the 8th wicket which was the new Test record.

This record was surpassed by Trott (184) and Broad (169)’s partnership of 332 against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010. Given the later disclosures of various tricks being played by Salman Butt and his friends, it is quite likely that they were “allowed” to run up large scores.

In that match in 1996 Paul Strang scored a century and took a five-for. He remains the only one from Zimbabwe to achieve this in a Test.

In 1997 this venue hosted another Test against South Africa. Nothing much happened as 3 days were washed out.

While Test matches did not return here, the people of Sheikhupura were more fortunate than their neighbours in Gujranwala. The one Test there (against Sri Lanka) in 1991 saw only one day of play before the weather played spoilsport. There are several other venues in India and Pakistan which have hosted only one Test so far.

Sheikhupura also features in jokes where it is supposed to be the home of Sheikh Pir, who wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare. Tamilians disagree as they say the plays were written by their scholar Seshappa Iyer.

There is a lesser-known Sheikhpura in Bihar state in India, on the Gaya-Kiul route: