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Tuesday, January 14, 2014



I have written several pieces in my blogs about Abi. He had many friends who adored him. He was a good doctor and had the finest bedside manner I have seen. Even after his heart attacks he would go to a patient if they called at night, thinking that they may not get anyone else to attend at this time.

He loved books (English and Urdu), published a set of short stories (Naee Paod) and wrote poems (to be published soon) in Urdu, loved music (Eastern Classical, Qavvaali, and Western Classical), could read musical notes and tried his best to teach me … but failed. He sang fairly well (in Urdu and English), spoke English well (and sometimes, as a joke, in a perfect Scottish accent when we asked), wrote Urdu with a lovely consistent writing, loved Science and Arts. And he adored sweets and mangoes (as do I).

Abi was extremely religious in his last years … but very liberal in his conversations with me even when they were against some parts of his beliefs at times. I owe him so much. My love of literature (and specially Urdu poetry), arts, and music, come from him.

When Abi was in Scotland for his medical studies he had been left with no money (specially from a father who had a lot of it). Abi never brought this up in any conversation and, once, when I said that this was terrible, he got angry at me and said that was between him and his father and I had no business criticising my dada! He finally had to get more money to pay for his examination fees and his last semester. He borrowed this from a 'friend' of his in Scotland (Auntie Dorothy) and promised to pay back soon when he started his practice in Monifieth (Scotland). However, he was called back to India when his mother had Cancer … and then he did not go back to UK.

He got married to my mother and told her in two days that he had to send most of the money he earned here to Dorothy in Monifieth. Ummi decided that it was a bad idea to owe someone money at all … and sold some of her jewellery and gave the money to Abi. That was within a fortnight of their marriage. I met Aunty Dorothy years later when I was in the Merchant Navy and went to Dundee, close to Monifieth. She spoke very fondly of him and of my mother whom she knew through letters.

From his practice in Aligarh (which began soon after his mother died), he eventually moved - in a few months after I was born - to Qarolbaagh in Dilli. He was taken into the British Army as a doctor and we travelled everywhere (Jhaañsi, Mayruth, Attock, to name a few) … but he also went to Palestine, Iraq, Cairo, Babylon, and many other places.

Then came the Partition. Ummi and I accompanied my Khaala and Khaalu (Abbu Jan and Ammi Jan) to Bombay where Abi was supposed to meet us. He did. He had just come from Dilli and found that the house and his little clinic had been burnt completely. Ummi was shocked at all the good things they had saved and bought … and never ever wanted us to buy anything, thinking that it would disappear one day. We set out to Karachi after Abi (a Congress Party member) had been assured by Dr Syed Mahmud (Nuzhat's Nana) and Pandit Ji that things would quieten down in six months and we could return.

That never happened :(

Life in Karachi was fairly bad. We had no money (the first few years Abi would treat refugees free from Ramakrishna Mission Hospital that he was working at. He had been called to join it by his friend and colleague from the UK who was now a Doctor and a Priest! They also gave us a small flat near where they lived. Despite this he and my mother had several friends and relatives who were coming from India to stay over at our house. Often a dozen, sleeping everywhere. How did Ummi manage their food was always a mystery, specially as I grew up and started understanding the 'finances'. Ammi Jan used to laugh and say that Ummi put in a lot of water to make the dishes seem larger than they were.

Abi's health kept getting worse … and he could not keep a job for long after having left Orient Airways as the Chief Medical Officer. He was in his clinic one day and off for days at a time. On some days he made nothing. On other days he made a few bucks. Doctors who were his friends told him that he should give up the refugees and move to a bigger place (Dr Afzal Habib offered to have him in his clinic), but Abi was Abi. The refugees came first. Then relatives. Then friends. Alwaysnd a book, if he ever had money.

When I ran away from home to join the Merchant Navy (there was no way that my father could have paid for my education, college, medical school, going off to UK to learn about the Surgeon I wanted to be), it was quite a tragedy. Abi was really hurt … although he soon discovered that I was a good cadet. Sadly he never lived long enough to see me pass my Second Mate's exams and get a prize for Navigation (from the Commonwealth).

It was the 19th of September, 1963, that Abi died.

His death - at 63 - was a shock to us, despite the fact that he had often been unwell: Heart problems (and small attacks, much as I have had until I had to go in for a quadruple bypass), Diabetes (he'd have his sweets once in a while and add an anti-Diabetic tablet with it … something that I do, too), High Blood Pressure, and an occasional lack of 'balance' as he lost his hearing in one ear and it made him fall at times (I have that now … though I haven't fallen, so far). Despite all these medical problems, Abi died of a Cerebral Haemorrhage when his Blood Pressure was Normal and his heart seemed fine.


It was on January 13th, 1988, that Ummi died.

Ummi lived through most of this widowhood of 25 years in a wonderful way — until she was confined to a wheelchair, having hurt her spine in a fall at the kitchen. She laughed, watched TV, went out to picnics among family and friends. Some of our relatives and Abi's friends visited her and she would begin to, occasionally, laugh with them.

She had always been a great wife and a lovely mother … and what was really important were two of her qualities: (a) she laughed a lot (and loved mad jokes), and (b) read tremendously (in Urdu). Among the numerous things that Ummi taught me was to laugh at everything. Even in a tragedy - after the initial crying - Ummi would laugh and talk about all the good things the person had said. Most important: she taught me not to be worried. That has been a remarkable thing in my life. I get over most things almost the way she did.

It was a pity to see her on an armchair in the last few years as she spoke less and less, laughed rarely, ate very little so that she could die and just prayed to be taken away. It was sad to see her go but I am glad she went.

Ummi liked animals. Specially mainaas and cats. When we brought Lenny home from our ship and decided to leave her with Ummi, she fell totally in love. Lenny was a strange cat. If Nuzhat and I left the house Lenny would come to the gate with us and wait there until we got back. Even if it was two in the night, there'd be Lenny. Waiting. When we left for our trips, Lenny would be in Ummi's room all the time.

She once said to me that I had one of my father's good habits: I loved books … But I also chose a bad one: I smoked. Abi gave his smoking up the day Ummi asked him to. I had started smoking when I was 14 … and now I was 37 years old. I went into the room and brought my large collection of pipes, my Lucky Strike cigarettes, and 2 Cigars that were in the Phillipine Wooden Box that had my name engraved on it, and told her to pass it to whomever she wanted. I would never smoke again. 

And that's true …

Not having a child for years after I was married — (Nuzhat and I married in 1970) — must have hurt Ummi, though she never told us about it. Or asked us to go to doctors. On our own we did go … and all doctors said was that we were OK. But soon we gave up thinking of a child, until a day in Hong Kong when, Muzaffar, a close friend of ours, asked us to adopt a Viet Nam baby. His wife, Gulnafar, was working with an agency that helped people adopt these children. We agreed after their insistence to come over in two days and see.

While both of us would have been happy with a baby, I felt that it wasn't the right thing to do. Nuzhat's had 5 brothers. They'd have babies. Their children would be the Nana/Nani favourites. My adopted child (and I) would never be able to handle this at all. Still, we had promised and the day came. I went to office and told Nuzhat that I'd pick her up as soon as I returned. Nuzhat said she had a headache and went to a doctor. She came back home and phoned me saying the doctor says she is pregnant. I rushed off and went with her again to the doctor. I wanted to see the baby and she said she'd just 'seen' the baby in the womb — but Nuz and I insisted. She showed us the child. Amazing. 14 years of marriage … and now we were going to be parents.

Nuzhat and I came back to Karachi. I left her and went off to sea. Thought I'd take leave closer to the birth. One day I got tons of calls from Karachi and they couldn't get through (telephony was really bad!) and when I got a call from the Port Office I was told that I had to rush out from the berth and come to office. Had no idea what was happening.

Soon Anwar, Tahira, their children, arrived. I was told that I had a daughter. I said that's silly. Its only 7 months. But they drove fast and picked up Jehan on the way and took me to Saulat (the head of our company) who had arranged a flight for me to Karachi. I got here and saw Ragni: Fairly blue! It was like having given birth to Krishna.

I was told that Nuzhat had gone with her sister-in-law who wanted to see the doctor. Nuz felt a bit of pain. The doctor checked her out and said she must have an operation right away. Called another doctor who arrived. Doctors told her that the baby had the umbilical cord around her throat and could die if they waited anymore. Her sister-in-law rushed home and brought the family. The blueness of Ragni was because of the lack of breathing well. She became alright after a few months with the blue fading away. (Well, almost!!! - Eh Ragni?)

Nuzhat and I named her Ragni Marea: The Melody of the Sea. Jan Ammu (my father's first cousin and the older brother of Talat Mahmood) came and recited the Azaan in her right ear and, at my insistence, he sang an alaap of Raag Darbari in her left ear :)

In the last four years Ummi saw my daughter … and that thrilled her. She adored Ragni. She didn't even cry when Ragni jumped on the bed and rolled over her aching feet. She spoke constantly with Ragni and that made Ragni improve her Urdu. Ragni started using words that we all laughed at because they were really big words. And she told Ragni numerous stories.

On the 13th January evening Ummi was lying on her bed and Nuzhat, Nihal Bhai (an old family friend who was staying with us), and I were with her. Ragni, now 4 years old, came in and started speaking to Ummi. Ummi held her hand and looked at her grand-daughter. I heard Ragni saying a few minutes later :  "Can't you see me, Amma Jan?" … Nihal Bhai said Ummi was feeling very weak. Nuzhat and I went immediately to get a doctor. Ragni fell asleep on her side by the time we came back.

The doctor arrived and said Ummi had passed away.

We didn't let Ragni come into the room and sent her off to school the next day (14th Jan) while the funeral was being prepared. In the afternoon we told her that Ummi had been take up to the heavens where angels would treat her. She looked at us and said, "Please don't alter her room. I want to see it look like that." (Now, that's her room when she comes back for a holiday from New York.)


(A whole year later, Nuzhat's father - a younger brother of Ummi - passed away on the 14th January 1989 …)

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Monday, January 06, 2014

Happy Birthday, Iqbal …

A very dear friend of mine decided to post this on FB on his birthday today.

Iqbal IsmailIt is sad day, Quaid's Karachi is burning. 'Sindh' is resisting division. Altaf Hussain is scheduled to set Pakistan on fire. I don't know how to react to all this. But let me here point out that this is the legacy of ZAB. He was the first civilian martial-law administrator. We know that in the PNA movement against rigged election, Asghar Khan and Wali and the rest were arrested. He was the one who relied on Martial-law in selected places. He was the one that caved on the Qādiyānī issue, He was the one who adopted extreme Islam and encouraged the Maulvis by adopting their agenda. No drinking... No sex... No nothing. Be good Musalmans. And the Indians we will destroy them. We will eat grass to have an atomic power. So, tell me on what grounds does the 'PPP' talk about democracy? And to cap it all, everything that was a gift from other states went straight to his account and BB inherited the habit and bought 'Surrey Palace' and other properties. On what grounds does the PPP talk about democracy? Democracy is its own revenge says Benazir Bhutto. I reply, If this is your revenge, BB. I am migrating to the 'United States'. Keep your democracy, cheat your people, produce more "Jiyalas" I don't care.

And, as he says, he will move to the USA soon. Pity. I'll miss him when he goes. But I had to respond to his piece above, so I wrote, twice, on his Facebook page under the comments of his message. Both times, for reasons that I do not understand, the comment disappeared … so I thought I'd write a blog - based on my comment - and include all of my points in it.


Dear Iqbal,

Democracy is no one's prerogative in this country. What you have written about Bhutto is true. But let's not forget the BB and NS were removed, twice, because of their own stupidities and corruption. And BB did not storm the court — something the NS did!

A friend of mine said, "BB understands - but won't listen; NS listens - but won't understand." While you have added BB here, there is a large amount of money that NS also took - perhaps not as blatantly as Zardari. But let's not forget that there was money that was transferred out of Pakistan and it was disclosed, with bank account numbers, to Hakim Said. He was going to read out the list at ILM in Lahore. Sadly he is not here to tell us anything. Someone killed him. NS thought it was the MQM and recalled, on TV, that they had the recorded voice of an MQM man negotiating the killing. Soon he changed his mind … and one of his ministers told me that I (and hundreds of thousands of others) had heard it wrong. NS never said that.

Are they democratic? No. They headed their party under the names of BB's father and NS's godfather (Zia). Elections inside their party? No. Oh … and that letter (that we didn't see) that, eventually, made Zardari our President.

Now we come to your party: the PTI. Let me tell you that I am (was?) a great fan of IK. His Cricket was excellent. The Cancer Hospital was absolutely amazing. I wish he'd stayed at that and been our hero forever.

I have had a couple of meetings with him (although he may not remember them at all). He was late at the meeting at Naeem-ul-Haque's house the first time he came to Karachi. I left when he arrived an hour late. What was the point for a leader to not be there when he was going to show his face for a meeting.


At one point he called a group of several people to LUMS Lahore to discuss the schooling system. There was Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr Q Isa Daudpota, and about two dozen others who were called. I was also invited.

I went to the meeting at LUMS. Everyone was there. IK wasn't. He called and found everyone was there and came in about 30 minutes late. Again!!!

There he told us that everywhere he went people threw money, women threw the gold ornaments, etc., at him, asking him to 'do something for schools and education'. He had called us all to sort out the best plan to do what he wanted to do.

My question to him at that time was that he'd built a great hospital with the help of doctors  and should now build a school, or a couple of them, to alter things here. Others will soon follow. The governments will also understand and support it. We moved on and at some point - perhaps because of Pervez's suggestions - it was decided that he would 'build three technical schools: Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi'. A gentleman got up and said he was from Baluchistan and was surprised that IK had ignored the province. He stated, when IK asked, that he had come to the meeting with his own money and was very interested in having a school there. So we finally had four institutions to be built.

IK stated that it was important that the school would make everyone a good Muslim. I asked if non-Muslims would not be admitted and IK said they would … but we'd teach them Islam and they will adopt it themselves. That left Isa and me feeling odd, though we stayed for the meeting. Pervez was finally chosen to head these schools. Pervez did start the beginnings of this project but left within months, just as we thought he would. I am not sure how far it went …

My next meeting was at Khurshid Kasuri's house at a small party. I discussed matters with IK and his view was that I didn't "really understand Islam". He'd been there. Done that. He really understood our problems and was going to change all of that.

Years later, IK /PTI (no democracy there, either!) are now in power at KPK. He and NS want to 'negotiate' with the Taliban. Which group from the Taliban's 50 sects, I don't know. But negotiate they will. In fact NS has already asked Mulla Sami Sandwich to lead the team on Pakistan's side to start with this lovely Islamic and Nationalistic project.

Sami Sahab says that the earlier Taliban's were trained by him. Their early leaders were taught by his team. And he fully subscribes to their views. Fine. Let's look at their views then:Taliban will begin the negotiation talks when Pakistan meets the following conditions:1. All our Army will have to be removed from 'their areas'.2. Sharea - as practiced by them - will be made  the Law in our country.3. All prisoners, regardless of which country they are from, who have been caught for being Taliban supporters, will have to be released.4. Khilaafat will become the mode of operations here. Until then they do not accept our Constitution.5. Since Islam does not recognise political boundaries we will have to accept that the Durand Line is no longer the border between us and Afghanistan.

We can't do very much about their 'demands' since they are no longer Pakistanis under these requests, but if Sami agrees with all this, he should be in jail - tried for treason. How can he represent Pakistan and talk to his brothers from our side?

IK hasn't given us as crazy reasons so far because he has to take both feet out of his mouth to speak. But he wants to negotiate. That's for sure.

The word Negotiate in the dictionary says this: • [no obj. ] try to reach an agreement or compromise by discussion with others: his government's willingness to negotiate.• [ with obj. ] obtain or bring about by negotiating: he negotiated a new contract with the sellers.

Compromise is what the Taliban means. So, once, NS/Sami/IK start the discussion and end it by giving the Taliban all they want (Taliban cannot give up their 'claims' since Allah has ordained these things, according to them) we'll have a Taliban Government, I guess, which will disregard Pakistan as a Nation-State. That sure sounds good. Right?

Can you imagine …

• Women won't learn anything. That's forbidden in their Sharea. How will the women find a Gyno is difficult since there will only be men practicing. Ayatullah Khomeini's idea will have to be turned around: Men can practice or surgery on women if they look into a mirror and do it. (Have you ever tried to put a thread into a needle while looking at the mirror?)

• Shias will, of course, all be killed (which will lead to an encounter with Iran, for starters … but, then, who cares if the fighters have Angels on their side). So will Ahmadis  be killed, as will Aga Khanis, Bohris, and other sects … like Barelvis. (Shit! No qavvaalis, either.)

• Christians (and the two Jews we may have here) have to accept Islam or pay the Jizyah. Or be killed. At least that's what Dr Israr stated on TV once. He said the Ahlé Kitaab have been given this option … otherwise we will fight with them 'on behalf of Allah'.

• Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, and Budhists will have to leave for some other country, I suppose … since they are not Ahlé Kitaab. Or they can be converted. Or killed.

Soon this will open the door for Afpak to start their negotiations with India about Kashmir. Slowly, in the fullness of time, the world will become Talibanized. Anjem Choudari for the Khalifa?

My question is how do Leaders, who were voted into power under our Constitution, give up their country - to damned foreigners, insane people, and their chamchaas - without even asking the people who gave them this tremendous power? Has almost everyone gone mad?
If there's anyone who can talk to IK, Iqbal, you can! Try. Get him to listen and understand.

Love … and a very happy birthday

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