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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Some memories

My mother and I shifted out of our house on Nazareth Road soon after Abi (my father) died. We were forced to vacate the house by the owner - a nephew of the Nizam of Hyderabad - who felt, on the day that Abi died, that the contract was not valid anymore since it was between him and my father.

Ammi Jan (my maternal aunt) and Abbu Jan (Asad Ali, an All India Hockey player of great note, who was also my dada’s youngest brother) were staying with us and moved with us to a house in PECHS for several months. Later on we shifted into the Iqbal Town house which was built with Abbu Jan's pension and provident fund - the way it was in the old days when you retired. My Khala and Khalu were like second parents for me.

Abbu Jan & Ammi Jan

(I always told friends that the Iqbal Town area was named after Iqbal Bano :D … being a little wary of Allama Iqbal and the number of things named after him everywhere.)

Ammi Jan passed away in 1967 while I was on the "M.V. Shams" and heard of it as soon as my ship arrived in the dock. It was awful to see a lovely person go. Her asthma had been a big problem all her life and this time she could not beat its attack.

I got married at the Iqbal Town house in 1970 and had Nuzhat sail with me for almost 10+ years in the Merchant Navy. She is an avid speaker and a lovely actor in a few plays. Of late she has put up a good website for women in trouble.


Abbu Jan came with us to my DHA house (my first real home that was built with loans and borrowed money). Ragni, our only child, was born in 1984 and part of all this is written for her to read. Abbu Jan expired in 1987. Ummi lived here until 1989, when she passed away in January.

The Iqbal Town house, however, was among the best periods of my life in Karachi. Despite being far away from all our friends' houses, we had Iqbal Ismail, Salman Kureshi, Muzaffar Ghaffar, Noel Colaco, Joe D’Cruz, Humayun Gohar, Uncle Charlie and his daughter, Umra, and many others visit us there each time I was on leave or my ship was at home port. Closer to the house were Lala Mufti, Captain Anees Jaetapkar … and the wonderful author, Ibné Insha, who lived nearly a block away.

Suroor Barabankvi
Suroor Barabankvi (a wonderful poet and a 'wonderfuller' person), whom I had met in Chittagong during a Mushaerah I held on my ship, knocked at my house gate one day and I was thrilled. He said he had arrived the night before and was going to be here for a week. We called him the next day and had him recite some poetry for us and four of my father's cousins who were his fans: Kamal Mahmood (Jan Ammu. He was Talat Mahmood's elder brother), his wife (Amna Phupi), her brothers Ayub Chacha and Sulaiman Chacha. The last three were the grandchildren of Ustaad Amir Minai.

I recorded many of Suroor Bhai's poems on that day — and more in the years to come. Here is a nazm you’ll like in his lovely voice. By the way, Suroor Bhai's younger brother married Jan Ammu's youngest sister (Khalida - my Phupi Jania) later on.

Sulaiman Chacha asked me to meet his friend, Syed Nasir Jahan, when I came back to Karachi and settled down, in 1984, from the Merchant Navy. I decided to 'duck' the issue, thinking that Nasir Jahan — a regular radio broadcaster with a lovely voice — was unlikely to be great fun for me to meet. His interests, apart from Urdu Poetry, were not likely to coincide with mine (or so I thought). His Naats were, of course, delightful to listen to on Radio Pakistan and his Nohas and Syed Aalé Raza's Salaam at every Muharram were always something I watched when I could. I had always thought that was what he was about … until I met him later.

My friendship with the Chittagong poets had developed fairly over the years. Most of them were regular visitors to the ships and were always included in our regular Mushaerahs that I held there on my ships. You will hear some of their verses in future blogposts and on a website. A few examples are in this post, too.

Bangladesh's war brought Asghar (Gorakhpuri) Bhai to Karachi - after having been left for dead under various corpses by the Mukti Bahini. His escape tales were worth listening to - as were most tales told by him. He was really a fascinating story-teller. Asghar Bhai was someone I always loved. Along with him, from Chittagong, came Nasir Zaidi (Shohrat) and his friend Kazim 'Nudrat' (Kajjoo) Abidi, two young poets.

Every now and then, we'd have Asghar Bhai read out a few of his verses. One of my favourite pieces,  recorded soon after Bhutto's death, was his Tanha Farishtay Ka Noha.

On some occasions we'd have another friend from Chittagong join us: Kavish Umar, who never became popular here. He was a superb poet and wrote often. At one Mushaerah in Chittagong, with Comodore Asif Alvi presiding, the first few poets did not turn up. Each name was called and there was no one to answer. (The reason was a little political problem. We have those in Mushaerahs just as we have them in our Cricket teams being selected.) The crowd was seemingly getting angry.

Asif (Alvi) Mamooñ - a second cousin of my mother - decided to call Kavish to the microphone in the hope that he would be able to keep the crowd quiet. Kavish was upset to have been called to the Mushaaerah at the beginning - but Asif Mamooñ was his boss! Kavish came up to the microphone and said, “I have just a qit'ah that I wrote a few minutes ago. Here it is.”

Karayñ to kis say karayñ jabré bandigi ka gilah,
Sünay to kaun sünay shikvaé dilé naashaad,
Saré niyaaz jhükaaéñ kahaañ kahaañ, Kavish,
Falak peh ayk khüdaa haé, zameeñ peh laa-taadaad.

He then left the stage amidst tons of people clapping and wanting him to come back … and left the place to go home. True Kavish!

Kavish was a strong Muslim but had very Leftist tendencies. Yet, he was very anti-Faiz and often wrote verses that were against Faiz's philosophy. Here is one nazm that he recited on “M.V. Bagh-e-Dacca” in the last Mushaerah we held there in 1970, just before the Bangladesh war began.

The day that Asghar Bhai arrived in Karachi, he came to see me. He had a close friendship with Nasir Jahan — and that meant that we were all soon meeting (specially with Shohrat & Kajjoo) at our place. 

My first meeting with Nasir Bhai stole my heart. Here was a man who was a wonderful conversationalist, adored classical music, totally in love of Urdu prose and poetry, recited beautiful verses, specially poems and anecdotes of Arzoo Lakhnavi and Josh Malihabadi. He loved many of my English books that I very rarely found other people reading. His wit and sarcasm were superb. And he loved the food at our house!

Nasir Jahan
During my days in the Merchant Navy I was posted to Hong Kong for a while, relieving an officer in Gokal’s GESL. When Eed-e-Meelaad-un-Nabi was a month away I was asked by NBP’s Mushtaque Sahab to help him get someone from Karachi to come and be part of the Pakistani celebrations. Nasir Bhai's name cropped up in my mind and Mushtaque Sahab was thrilled.

I phoned Nasir Bhai, asking him to come over to Hong Kong. It took a lot of convincing, since he hated flying. "I have been scared of it all the time", he told me. Finally, three phone calls later, I got him to agree to come over and he was part of the Meelaad celebrations. We also managed to convince him to recite various verses (including a Manqibat to Hazrat Ali - from Ghalib) at a local club, with me reciting a couple of mine in between his readings, too. Here is one of mine.

A few years later Nasir Bhai, Asghar Bhai, and myself had a radio broadcast (called Baat-say-Baat) which was the only piece from the series that Nasir Bhai did that was played twice again by public demand! A part of it is what I managed to get from a friend who taped the last bit of it. I think the first 10 minutes or so are missing, but this is what I have.

There are so many things I recall about Nasir Bhai, Asghar Bhai, Shohrat and Kajjoo. Our wonderful days together. The craziest nights out that lasted until the early hours of the morning. Tons of poetry. Many stories. Asghar Bhai & Nasir Bhai had remarkable memories of the old poets, their writings, their lives … and we were always thrilled to hear not just their verses but also the anecdotes that both told. There was one about Arzoo Lakhnavi that Nasir Bhai told us and then repeated it at a friend’s house. I have the recordings of both times but decided to share the friend's version here to give you an idea of the kind of audiences we used to have.

Muzaffar Warsi (before his beard)
We'd all go to meet visiting poets at public gatherings and bundle them into our car to bring them home for the night. One was Muzaffar Warsi. I had met him when he carried a bunch of Currency Notes on the "M.V. Shams" to Chittagong. I was walking past the open door of his cabin when I heard sounds of a lovely recitation. I walked in and told him that it was great and he said "I am a ٹھیك ٹھاك poet".

The first qit'ah that he then recited for me was something I always remember:

Zindagi kee qabaa ka har tük∂aa زندگی كی قبا كا ھر ٹكڑا
Vaqt kay paérahan meñ taankaa haé وقت كے پیرہن میں ٹانكا ھئے
Aé zaamaanah, hamayñ düaaéñ day اے زمانہ ہمیں دعايں دے
Tayree üryaanioñ ko dhaanka haé تیری عریانیوں كو ڈھانكا ھئے

Muzaffar Bhai always came to meet me whenever he arrived in Karachi. I miss his voice. Among my favourite pieces from him was his Ya Rahmat-ul Lil Aalameeñ.

Among others who came often to the Iqbal Town house were people whose poems I also recorded there: Himayat Ali Shaér, Mohsin Ehsan, Naseer Turabi, Havi (from Quetta), Mohsin Bhopali, Athar Nafees, and Peerzada Qasim. I will put some of their verses on a new website. (Soon — I promise!)


Suroor Barabankvi left this world in 1980. We all miss him an awful lot. He reminds me most of all of his shayr that said:

Jin se mil kar zindagi say ishq ho jaae, voh log
Aap nay shaayad nah daykhay hoñ, magar aésay bhi haeñ! 

I was in a hospital in London, going through a surgery. During a heavily-dosed period on the first day I saw Asghar Bhai walking in and saying he was there to see me. I asked Nuzhat when I woke up if Asghar Bhai had come and she said I was obviously dreaming. I said I'll be going back to Karachi in 2 weeks and will ask Asghar Bhai to come every day and keep me company while I am recuperating in bed.

When I arrived in Karachi, my cousin Naz (who was staying at our house) asked me if there are two Asghar Gorakhpuris. I said, "Of course not!" — and she brought out a Jang Newspaper that said Asghar Gorakhpuri was dead! I was dumbfounded. I rang up his Brother-in-Law, a fellow Master in the Merchant Navy, and he said Asghar Bhai had died with a heart attack when Shohrat and Kajjoo were visiting him at home. Nuzhat took the car out and I, lying in the back with great difficulty, went to his house.

Asghar Bhai had died within minutes of the time that I remember seeing him in hospital! Even stranger, he gave some of his writings to Nasir and said to give it to me and told him to write ‘Zaheer’ in the corner "with a ز" because he thought Nasir would write it with a ظ like most people. He took a sip of water after that remark — and was no more! (Sadly, despite all this, I don't 'believe' in the Supernatural)

Kavish Umar, for reasons best known to him, disappeared from our lives. He used to live in Orangi Town. I had  no idea where he went. Neither did Shohrat or Kajjoo know. (Last year I discovered he had had a Heart Attack and didn't go anywhere. I visited him and his daughter, Sahar, and called them over to T2F where they recited wonderful poems. Thanks for coming, Kavish.)

Nasir Bhai phoned me from Islamabad and said he was coming to Karachi and that I should ask Nuzhat to make his favourite Kabaabs and Kheer and he will come with Shohrat. When Nuzhat came back from the office the next day, she asked if I knew about Nasir Bhai. I said he'll be here for dinner tonight and you have to make some food for him. She said she'd just heard on the radio in the car that he was dead and the body would be coming by the flight he was to come by.

Shohrat and I reached the graveyard and waited for his body that was coming from the airport. We buried him and I cried an awful lot. A lot more than I had for anyone in years.

Shohrat died 2 years ago, just a few weeks after I had gone to see his child's wedding.

Kajjoo had been ill for a while. He was bedridden often. One day he phoned me to say he was feeling a lot better and would come to see me soon. "Do you have some old Chittagong Mushaerahs that we could play?" he asked. I said I did have a few. Three days later his daughter phoned me to say that Kajjoo had passed away.


These recitations that I have on tape are my only connect
with a beautiful past.


Jehan Ara, daughter of Mushtaque Sahab, became a mooñh-boli bahen for me soon after our first two meetings. Much after we both left GESL, I also worked with her in the Media Publishing Agency she ran and I did a small computer consultancy in HK for a while. Much later, she came back with her family to Karachi and joined me at Solutions Unlimited (SU) & Enabling Techmologies (ET) in 1994. She wanted to start a media agency here, but Pakistan did not seem to be the right place.

Eventually Jehan also helped me increase Enabling Technologies and was a 'partner' in it (although it stayed as my company on the records - something neither of us thought of legally changing with all the hassles that involved). We worked together for a while until I decided to join the Kasuris (of Beaconhouse) and set up BITS.

Jehan decided to continue with Enabling Technologies, which is not working at the moment because she is P@SHA's President and doing extremely well (as is P@SHA). Her blog, specially if you are interested in technology and women, is worth a read.

BITS became mine after the Kasuris decided to stay out of IT … and I gave 50% of it to Sabeen Mahmud, who had, more or less, started working with me when she was 15! She is brilliant and was responsible for loads of our work: from Jehan's Interactive floppy-disk version of her biodata that we passed everywhere (it won a prize at an exhibition here!) to the wonderful Faiz CD and more.

Sabeen now runs PeaceNiche - an NGO. Its first 'product' — T2F, a place that you must visit if you are in Karachi — is respected in most cities in Pakistan.

BITS (Beyond Information Technology Limited, to give it its full name) is now a consultancy and works entirely off the Internet.

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Blogger Nabeel K said...

'Some' memories? These are a lot of memories! I would consider myself lucky if I can remember details like this.

07 December, 2011 18:06

Anonymous Jehan said...

I remember the day I was first told about you - someone who had interesting tales to tell and whom i should rope in for Albatross. :)

One of the first things that you said to me was "WHAT? You don't eat chocolates! Who doesn't eat chocolates?" You are to blame for my chocolate addiction - you and no-one else!

Nasir Jehan's visit, Uzma saying she liked "the way he sang" when he was actually reciting a Noha - he was amused, not offended. Such a nice man.

The house in Iqbal Town, Ummi insisting i be given green peas which I loved so much, telling me stories with that mischievous smile of hers - gosh so many memories.

You have to write a book - an interactive one - online if you don't want to publish it. You have so many stories to tell - about all the interesting people you and Nuz have met, all the wonderful places you've been, the experiences you've had. Pleeeeeeease Zak, you can't deprive us!

07 December, 2011 22:12

Anonymous Hareem Sumbul said...

I wish I could like Jehan Ara's comment. You must write an interactive book. Memories are like songs, we all have them in our lives, precious, prized, delightful. All must be archived. How will anyone ever find out the joy of being offered peas or an off scale twist of sur(prise) in an arrangement. Loved the post, clearly

07 December, 2011 23:00

Blogger Irfan said...

ZAK....this is surely a lot more than a recollection of your personal past; it is the tale of a "tehzeeb" rapidly dying. Where do find now people like Suroor Barabankvi and Nasir Jahan? Iqbal Town is an area I also have fond memories of as a school friend used to live there, and I went to this place quite often to spend the day. We played outside Insha ji's house more out of greed than anything else as he would treat us with almonds and cashew nuts whenever he saw us playing cricket in the lane. Names like Aarzoo Lakhnavi opened a door towards my own memory-lane as his film songs were really my first introduction to Urdu poetry at a very young age.
یہ واقعی ایسے لوگ تھے جس سے مل کر زندگی سے عشق ہوجائے۔ واہ۔
ZAK do write more; this is amazing stuff.

08 December, 2011 01:53

Blogger Irfan said...

I will go a step forward; think of an audio book. Please...listening in your voice would add a world in terms of meanings, context, and relevance. Please.....start recording during your spare time. I can promise on behalf of Sabeen that she would cut out a CV too with a lovely cover :)

08 December, 2011 01:55

Blogger Irfan said...

Correction :)

I can promise on behalf of Sabeen that she would cut out a CD (not CV) too with a lovely cover :)

08 December, 2011 02:04

Blogger Irfan said...

علامہ آرزو لکھنوی کا ایک شعر بطور تبرّک۔

کسی کی دید کے دم تک تھیں آنکھیں
اب آنکھیں یادگاریں ہیں نظر کی

08 December, 2011 02:08

Blogger Irfan said...

kis chakkar meiN Daal diya ZAK! aaj koyi aur kaam nahiN kar sakta maiN...kya kya yaad dila diya aur kaisey kasiey dareechey khol diey mazi ki taraf!!!

راستو، کیا ہوئے وہ لوگ کہ آتے جاتے
میرے آداب پہ کہتے تھے کہ جیتے رہیئے

ab na woh buzurg, na woh tehzeeb, na woh tarjeehat...

08 December, 2011 02:14

Blogger Fawad Zakariya said...

Wonderful post Zak! These are the type of memoir pieces that your readers continuously urge you to write more. They are probably therapeutic for you and they capture some of the essence of a bygone people, era and civilization. I love the idea of an audio memoir book in your voice. One of the critical things that would accomplish is to capture your memories in your native Urdu idiom. What a treasure that would be!!

09 December, 2011 06:24

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Thanks, Nabeel K

Jehan, you brought back a whole day of memories of Ummi and her constant smiling face. Would have loved to write a post about her but I tried twice and failed miserably about what I wanted to say. So I gave it up. I think she lives so well in my mind that nothing I write will do it justice..

Irfan & Fawad Zakariya (as well as Jehan and Hareem Sumbul): First of all my blogposts have several pieces where I have added poetry, music, anecdotes, and more. Surely you and others can see them and read them again when you feel like it. Why should there be a book? Specially an interactive one.

I did think of putting the old pieces into a book. In fact I had titled it "Ships and Shoes and Sealing Wax" and started on it but gave it up after about 40+ pages. It never has the feelings that I have when I occasionally write a post. Some of them you like, some you don't. But that's what these posts are: My thoughts, my memories, just me.

OK. To put things right, I have joined a group of people [along with "Urdu" - An Urdu Poetry Preservation Project of PeaceNiche] to set up a website of Urdu Poets that we have on record. Should start very soon. Maybe I'll ask the people I am partnering to allow me to add a few anecdotes in it in my voice. Will that do? I hope so!

Thanks for your comments.

09 December, 2011 15:06

Blogger Quizman said...

Wonderful memory. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

18 December, 2011 14:05

Blogger Amima said...

This is beautiful ZAK, thank you so much for enriching and entrusting us with your memories!


20 December, 2011 11:49

Anonymous Nabeel said...

Thank you for your post. Beautiful. I feel deprived,having grown up in an age where one has to actively search for poetry in order to access it. I don't live in Pakistan and have never been really introduced to the joys of great Urdu poetry - your blog continues to be educational. Thank you.

On the library bit, I have been thinking about how tragic it is that we don't have a good digital library of Urdu prose and poetry. Wikipedia (as expected) has a (probably incomplete) list:

I really admire this Bangla website as well:

26 December, 2011 02:48

Blogger Adnan said...

Aadab : I came to your blog while searching for Suroor Barabankwi on Internet. Got to listen to one Ghazal, I hadn't heard before. Thanks a lot for sharing it.
Here are some more of Suroor Barabankwi's ghazal's in his voice.

Adnan F Abbasi

25 January, 2012 22:44

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Dear Adnan

I have visited the Sher-o-Sukhan blogs before ... Thanks for reminding me of it.

I do have many more of Suroor Bhai's Ghazals that I will be putting on my blog soon — so do keep checking.

If you visit my old blog posts you will also find many other poets there.

25 January, 2012 23:14

Blogger Adnan said...

Badi Nawazish aap ki keh aap ne mere comment ko acknowledge kiya.
I look forward to listening to more of Good Poetry and reading some interesting anecdotes about people, Some of these people are familiar to me and with some of them I have a "Ghayebana Ta'arruf"


26 January, 2012 00:05

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you place an order from the US on your CD/DVD blog? You can reply to

19 February, 2012 07:05


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