Karachi

At the end of the academic year I also moved to Karachi. There were very few houses, and lot of space around our house in Nazimabad no. 4 for cricket, which was regularly played there. A team was created by my younger brother, Shakiel, and we played matches with other teams. Out of respect for the elder brother, he made me captain of the team. I failed miserably at cricket but he was a brilliant cricketer, both as batsman and bowler. This was his undoing, because my father sent him for studies to London but one day Ajmal Mian (later chief justice of the supreme court of Pakistan) arrived after doing his bar, and told my father that Shakiel in London was spending more time on cricket and his fans than on his studies. Therefore he was recalled, and that was the end of his great talent in cricket. However, Shakiel and my youngest brother Adeel started playing Badminton and Table Tennis at Nazimabad Club which my father had helped build, and became champions in their respective games in club tournaments. My third brother Aqueel developed a mysterious illness through his love and contact with animals from which he never fully recovered.

My undoing in cricket was due to fact that I read a book by the great Donald Bradman and got hooked on to his pull and hook shots, when what any beginner should first do is to learn to watch the ball from baller’s hand to his bat at the front or back foot. Only when one has mastered this that should one start glancing or hitting the ball from that position even before playing pull, sweep or hook shots. Similarly, in bowling one should first learn to aim at the wicket at various speeds, and only when one has perfected line and length that should one try swinging or spinning the ball with off or leg breaks or googlies.

I helped a British Lady named Mrs. Fyson to build the Adult Blind Centre in Karachi from aluminium sheets. These came in abundance in aid in those days and the area opposite Gora Qabristan on Drigh Road (now Sharae Faisal) was known as Aluminium Quarters, because of the number of refugees who had put up shelters with these aluminium sheets provided in aid. I used to bring blind boys home to feed them and keep them for the night. An interesting lady who joined us in this work was Kaneez Fatima, who later became a fiery labour leader of Karachi.

I became a member of a Swiss organization called Service Civil International, which did a number of charitable works. One summer I volunteered to build a mountain path from Murree to the village down the hill, as it became treacherous under winter snow. It was hard work and was taking a long time; so I suggested that we should get some student volunteers from nearby Lawrence College in Ghora Gali. For this I was deputed to make a speech before the college assembly, and the next Sunday a large number of students arrived and did more work than we had done in a month. I met one of the volunteers many years later in London on Russell Street, where we were staying. He had bought the house where the Quaid-e-Azam had stayed as a student and had a plaque to that effect placed at the entrance.

At that time student politics in Karachi often became violent. It began with the followers of G. M. Syed, led by Junejo, who raised slogans against Punjabis and enforced this with hockey sticks till they met their match in Punjabi student body builders led by Rana Azhar Ali Khan and his cousins who took the clothes off a few of them and sent them home naked, including the son of a federal minister who himself became a minister in the first PPP government. Rana was also used by the administration against leftist student organisations. I still remember a meeting at Islamia College, which was being presided over by the leftist student leader Fatehyab Ali Khan as the President of Islamia College Student Union. Rana came from the back, pushed students aside, picked up chairs in both his hands, started throwing them around, and single-handedly dispersed the audience in no time while Fatheyab Ali Khan watched helplessly from the stage. Rana’s monopoly on violence ended when an Urdu speaking, slightly built Shahinshah introduced knife, and I saw Rana’s right hand bandaged, as he stood in front of an Irani restaurant sucking sugar cane from his left hand. This resulted in a truce, after which they paid more attention to studies. Junejo and Shahinshah became lawyers, and Rana formed a Consumer Association, negotiating deals between various organisations and the government. In the process he persuaded the government to allot him a petrol pump and land, which made him rich enough to take to piety and spend his old age at Karachi Gymkhana giving lectures on religion. In those later days, he dressed in different coloured Ghalib caps matching his Bandi, Kurta, Shalwar, and Saleem Shahis, which fascinated many, especially the ladies.

Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah was principal of S.M. Arts College, and Manzoor Ahmad and Mohammad Mian, two Muhajir student stars of the Jamaat-e-Islami, were lecturers in philosophy and English respectively. When I joined B. A. Honours classes at Karachi University, both Manzoor Ahmed and Muhammad Mian became my class fellows in certain subjects which were jointly taught to Honours and M. A. philosophy students by the great teacher M. M. Ahmed, who was always immaculately dressed in well-pressed sherwani and chooridar pyjama, like Vice Chancellor A. B. A. Haleem.

Manzoor Ahmad went on abroad for further studies, and strengthened his excellent analytical skills to become the most popular philosopher of Pakistan. He held many high offices, like Dean of the Faculty of Arts of Karachi University, Vice Chancellor of Hamdard University, and Rector of the Islamic International University, Islamabad. When he established Usmania Institute of Technology, he asked me to be on its board. I admired him for his clear and to the point analysis of things that mattered

Muhammad Mian went on to live and work in Lebanon, Syria, Libya and Germany and became a revolutionary. The Jamaat-e-Islami never disowned Dr. Manzoor Ahmad, but Muhammad Mian came back and openly flirted with leftist parties though he never got along with anyone because he was too outspoken and opinionated for most people. One gentleman who went to see him told me that he went to his house to see Muhammad Mian but he met Khuda there. However I always liked him for his frank and clear cut expressions. Another friend at S. M. Arts College was Ahmed Maqsood who had an eventful career as a civil servant. He was thrown out of the service by Yahya Khan on the insistence of Mr. Bhutto for being too friendly at a party. I got to know his talented family, especially his highly cultured mother Pashi, whom I met with Begum Majeed Malik. His sister Zehra Nigah, became one of the most sought after poets in mushairas, and married a civil servant who was also a scholar. Other talented members of his family whom I got to know were Fatima Suraya Bajia whose plays won her laurels, Anwar Maqsood who became a humourist and compere par excellence, and Zubaida Tariq who earned a reputation as a TV cook and her daughter Shaha whom I made a director of the Heritage Foundation.

At S. M. Arts College, Ahmed Maqsood, Ghayasuddin, Anwar Hussain and I were often together. Anwer was talented son of Dr. Mahmood Husain, but chose to be all style, which was admired and copied by many, like leftist leader Meraj Muhamad Khan, who gave the same tilt to his head as Anwer did when addressing public meetings. Ghayasuddin, was the son of the owner of the Times Press, and his name was printed as editor of the Urdu magazine, ‘Al-Shuja’, which the Times Press published. Recently at Bajia’s soyem, Ghayasuddin told me that when I arrived from Lahore and joined him at SM College, he asked me the difference between Karachi and Lahore. And I told him that today when I came out to take bus for college I was the first person at the bus stop, but soon another gentlemen came and stood behind me and made a queue and when the bus came I entered the bus first and he followed me. In Lahore on the other hand if I were the first person in front of the ticket counter at a cinema hall, when the counter opened I found my self to be the last person in the queue.

I was leader of opposition in the annual inter-collegiate Urdu debate to Anwar Husain who was leader of the house. Others who did well in debates were Akhtar Hasan, who became a CSP like his elder brother Aftab Ahmed Khan. Then there was Mohsin, who sipped brandy before every debate to make his voice hoarse. Mohsin was elected vice president of the student union, while Salman Farooqui was elected secretary. They became friends and took the civil service examination. Mohsin got into income tax while Salman Faruqui was selected for customs and excise and rose to become an important member of every government, first in the province and later in the centre. He ended up becoming Secretary General to the President with the status of federal minister, and received the Nishan-i-Imtiaz. He was hated for that by many, but once in power they relied on him to do the job. For example when Muhammad Khan Junejo became prime minister he was determined to keep Salman out. Prime Minister Junejo convened a conference in Islamabad to work out plans to provide housing to the poor, in which my wife put forward the concept of a land bank for the poor. This was liked by Junejo who asked her to work out the details for him. Salman Faruqui, who was there knew that she was not going to do anything about it, as she was used to politicians asking her to prepare plans and reports which were never implemented. Therefore he arrived next week at our house in Karachi, and said that he would not leave till my wife had had worked out the whole concept for him, which she did. Whereupon he took it and presented it to the prime minister and thus mended his relationship with him; but as we expected, the plan for a land bank for the poor never materialised.

At that time Pir Ilahi Bux Colony was the intellectual hub of Karachi. It included existentialist Guru Hasan Askari, Marxist critic Mumtaz Husain, poet Rais Amrohvi, writer editor Shahid Ahmed Dehlavi, and many other celebrities. It had strong representation in S. M. Arts College. There was Saleem Asmi who took to journalism and became editor of the newspaper Dawn. Abul Fazal joined the foreign service, became ambassador, and after retirement became a regular contributor to “Dawn”. Poet Athar died early. One of the most charming was Agha Nasir who became a Radio and TV writer, producer and director. As drama producer of Radio Pakistan he invited me to take part in plays, but gave up when he found that I was no actor.

The English Department at that time had two beautiful lecturers, one of whom was Maya Jamil of Lucknow and the other Parsi Rhoda Vania. I became friendly with Professor Naqvi, who helped me with English debates, and Urdu novelist Professor Faruqi. Among the men the most impressive figure was Dr. Mahmood Hussain who was head of the history department. Among his students was Haziqul Khairi, who later became principal of S. M. Law College, judge of the High Court and head of the Shariat Court. Another history student I became acquainted with was Jamilur Rehman, younger brother of Mir Khalilur Rehman of “Jung” and who later joined PPP, becoming editor of their newspaper “Musawat”. On the extreme opposite was Hamida Khuhro. Rashida Rizvia of the philosophy department was known for her good looks and short stories. At that time Karachi University sprawled along Princess (Chand Bibi) Street in Ranchore Lines, where the most interesting place was the university canteen. Apart from a number of interesting persons who were enrolled in or taught at the university, there were others who spent time in the canteen to give the impression that they were studying at the university. The other interesting place was the British Council at nearby Pakistan Chowk, which had not yet become commercial and was a treasure trove of English literature. Ghazi Salahuddin and I competed for the number of books we read, and signed in pencil at the end of each book, leaving comments in them to show how clever we were.

Our main interest at that time was the Angry Young Men of English literature who expressed disaffection with the established socio-political order, namely John Osborne (Look Back in Anger), John Wain (Hurry on Down), Kingsley Amis (Lucky Jim), John Braine (Room at the Top), Harold Pinter (The Room), Colin Wilson (The Outsider), etc. My own favourite author was James Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Hero and as a Young Man). But a girl who was studying English Literature challenged me to read Ulysses and Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, in which I failed.

On my way back from University I often dropped at the house of two old colleagues of my father in UP Legislative Assembly, namely Shaukat Ali Khan and Chaudhry Khaliquzaman and played chess with him. During one winter I got ill and was advised to go to Quetta for change of climate where I lived with Chaudhry sahib’s brother-in-law and had the company of Chaudhry sahebs younger son Nihaluzzaman.

During the holidays the venue shifted to Saddar Coffee House which was at that time situated in the centre of Karachi opposite to Saddar Bus stop where all the buses from all over Karachi stopped and took off. Here one could for a pot of tea spend the whole day and have the company of budding Urdu writers and poets and student political activists of every hue. Here one was often accosted by Fatehyab Ali Khan who demanded if we had any cigerettes and if we had he divided them among those present and the next was to ask for money. If there was enough he took all of us to the nearby Paradise or Capital cinemas. And if it did not work Fatehyab took us into a lane off MacLeod Road in front of Law College where he lived with his elder brother and asked for money from his brother who could not deny it in our presence.

Next to the university was Urdu College and beyond it was KMC Sports Complex, where an All India Squash champion of the 1940’s related to Hashim and Roshan Khan gave lessons in squash and tennis. While Hashim Khan and his brother Azam, after ending the Egyptian monopoly of World Squash, had gone to live abroad, Roshan Khan was usually there, and was friendly to me because my uncle, Zafarul Ahsan, as head of PIA had made it possible for him to go to the UK, to win the British Open by beating Hashim Khan in the final in 1957. This stirred my ambition, and before I left for Oxford I took intensive training in squash and tennis from them. But this was not to be, because as soon as I got to Oxford, I fell for four English girls, one of whom was blind, and our interest centered round helping her in her studies and social activities. This meant that I had no time for sports till they left Oxford; and after that I never took part in any sports, as I had become involved in social events that had become available to me as a friend of four pretty girls. The only memory I have of them now is a Chamber’s dictionary that they gave to me on my birthday on 13 November 1960, which has all their names.

 

 

 

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