Kamal Ahmed Rizvi

image
Another icon from an age gone by has departed this world. Kamal Ahmed Rizvi died day before yesterday.

In the mid-1980s I would go for Friday prayers to Masjid-e-Farooq, which was new at the time and was located across from the Boating Basin market. Since Friday used to be a holiday in those days, a very sizeable crowd would collect for the Juma’a prayers.

I had recently returned from my studies and Friday prayers was a time for bonding with friends and to feel the soul connection, which I had missed during my years abroad. Into this mix should be thrown a famous presence, who used to turn up every Friday. He was a tallish, very fair, bright eyed man, wearing a white kurta pyjama. The kurta was made out of malmal and reminded me of all the connections with my childhood and old Karachi. Especially the fact that it was paired with a pyjama, which more or less by then had been discarded in favour of the shalwaar. Kamal Ahmed Rizvi on those Fridays, for me, stood as the epitome of my childhood and a Pakistani culture, which was rapidly disappearing at the time.

Kamal sahib, would walk in tall and upright, displaying a beaming smile and work his way to the front ranks in the masjid. He would acknowledge the salaams and stares with verve and panache, which seemed to say ‘these things matter not’. His kurta and pyjama were starched and white as white could be and his demeanour and method reminded one of the nawabs of ages gone by.

My memory (and those of my generation) of Kamal Ahmed Rizvi relates to many years of Allan and Nannha (Alif Noon). A quite fascinating sitcom, which besides being funny, dealt with many of the social issues of the 1960s. For years this was the most watched program on PTV and the roads used to be deserted when it was being televised. In the program as much as Nannha (Rafi Khawar) was a loved character, Allan (KAR) was generally not liked and yet an essential to the program. One never forgot the faces of Allan and Nanna and though 45 years might have passed, they remain vivid and real.

It is all very sad. Artists and people with culture, depth and character are disappearing. Society as it grapples with the modern era is changing. As it changes the values are altering. People who put their heart and soul into trying to put a culture together in Pakistan, are passing on. As they pass on, it seems there is not enough depth left in society to replace them. There are none of those writers/thinkers/artistes who would spend their evening in the cafes of Karachi, discussing social and human issues. They were connected with the people and were so much part of us ordinary humans. We now seem like a populace lost, too attached to our technology, speed and material needs, Do we really see that our lives have become hollow? One is reminded of it, when those survivors of a different generation die and the loss is seen as irreplaceable.

The passing of Kamal Ahmed Rizvi, as some others of the same ilk, is like a body blow to people in my generation, who saw a brighter and more hopeful world. Somewhere sometime, the lights are being switched off one by one. May Allah grant Kamal Ahmad Rizvi maghfirat and Jannah for all the good deeds he has done.

Advertisements

Karim Bhai

Karim Bhai

Sometime in October 1983, I happened to be driving past the Hanging Gardens Apartments on the way to a friend’s place to play cards. That area of Karachi was still being developed and the famous Boating Basin was yet to be commissioned.

1983 was a year when we old class fellows had returned from our studies abroad. Karachi was home and had been our shelter for the first 18 years of our lives. It was a joyous homecoming. Life was still young and hopeful. Early career and a slog at work, was compensated by a lot of eating out and then playing cards all night. Come early morning we would go home, have a short nap, shower and be off to office. The invincibles! As friends we were doing a lot of catching up for the 6 years we had been abroad. It was a carefree time and life looked rosy.

So on this particular day, driving to my friend Adil’s house, I saw a rather bare looking pan store in the newly constructed Hashoo Terrace. This was manna to me, as at the time that whole area was bereft of shops. Turned out that I was the first customer – it was a Saturday morning. A couple of paan and cigarettes were supplemented by a chat with the new proprietor. Karim and later additionally ‘bhai’, as it turned out was a smiling individual, who loved to be happy and talk. Cricket was his forte, but he would also listen to us about girls, work and travel experiences.

Karim Bhai became a regular supplier for all of us and we would also indulge in deep conversations with him. I was at that time working for Unilever on a princely sum of Rs 6500 a month – don’t laugh, it was a top salary in those days when the Rupee went far.  At the end of the first month of operations, I asked Karim Bhai how much profit he had made. His reply, Rs 7500, left me flabbergasted and he went into peals of laughter. Later I said to a couple of friends that I might as well have stayed back and started a paan shop, rather than go to the UK for CA.

The years moved on and we did not remain young and carefree – yes marriage and promotions, real spoilers of freedom. Some of us left smoking and we stopped playing cards regularly.  But my attachment to Karim Bhai still remained. I would stop for a paan and now started developing the relationship by experimenting with the types of paan. He was still jolly, though now I had outpaced his earnings, but we raved and ranted about Pakistan cricket together.

Unfortunately work took me abroad and in the 90′s, few and far between, I would come to Karachi and a visit to Karim Bhai was obligatory. His hair was turning grey and weight had gone up. Apparently constant standing to deliver paan to customers had taken a toll, and he suffered from sciatica. On a couple of visits he would not be there, because of the pain. I wish I had asked for his address and gone to see him wherever he lived. Finally, in 2005 I returned to Karachi permanently.

One evening I took a drive to the paan shop and he was not there. I asked after Karim Bhai and some new assistant said ‘but he died’. The assistant showed me the sign on the shop, which had now changed to some other name, as the ownership had passed on.

How does one evaluate such a loss? For me a part of my life had gone. The pain was all the more, because of the regret of neglect which swept over me. I had allowed trivial matters to control my life and overlooked an essential. No amount of regret or sorrow will change that feeling of inadequacy.

Today, when I look back and analyse my life, it’s full of so-called successes. Strangely though, compare the memories about friends, family and small things versus the memory of lives successes, there is just no comparison. I cannot picture my CA results, or being made CEO, or driving a posh company maintained car, or receiving various awards along the way. But I do remember friends and family vividly. I do remember a paan wala’s laughter as he told me he had trumped me on my salary.

That is the very essence of life, but we learn it back-ended, having traversed through it.  We all must look after our friends and family, because they will not be with us always and then we don’t want to face the regret of lack of fulfillment.

You all will have your Karim Bhais. Nurture them while you can …

%d bloggers like this: