Chapter 27. The End of a Love Affair with Rivers and Steamers

This was not my first visit to Karachi as I had come here in December 1945 to meet Mumtaz Chacha and family shortly after my return home at the end of World War II. I had come to Bombay to appear before the Public Service Commission to join the Bengal Pilot Service.

After spending a few days after my interview, in Bombay (Mumbai) I said to myself: “Having come so far why don’t I go to Karachi to meet Mumtaz Chacha? ” It was he who adopted me from the time I was born and, along with Farhadi Nani (she was a first cousin of my grandfather Atiqullah Nana) took care of me until I was six years old, when he returned me to my parents as, by then, he had his own four children – Sohail, Humaira, Zubeida and Sajjad.

Then, one day in the latter half of the year 1930, for reasons no one knew, he left his home in Calcutta very early in the morning, and was not heard of for nearly twelve years.

Then, as I learnt from my brother Shahed and cousin Mohiuddin, (as much as I can remember) who were at the Muslim University School, Aligarh, in 1944, that they were summoned to the office of the Principal to meet someone who was inquiring if there were any students from the Dhaka Nawab Family present at the time. They met an elderly gentleman with flowing white beard who asked them questions about various members of the family, in particular, about Sohail.

He told them that he was leaving Aligarh by the evening train. After he left, Mohiuddin and Shahed wondered if he was Mumtaz Chacha who had been missing for the past twelve years. To confirm, whether or not it was him, they cycled to the Railway station in the evening and met him.

It seemed the time had come for him to return to his family which he did in the next few days, and took his entire family to Karachi where he was living. In addition to the four children mentioned above, he had three more – Zubair, Amer and Jamil. He had another wife in Karachi, Latifa Bai from whom he had Bashira, Saeeda and Salma.

In December 1945 Mumtaz Chacha was the Imam of a Mosque in Bhimpura, Karachi. I got off the train at the Karachi City station and arrived at the Mosque in a horse-drawn carriage, all such carriages are known as Victoria.

It was late afternoon, about an hour before Maghrib (evening prayer), as I walked up the steps to his room where he was busy writing. I knocked at the door and entered. He looked up wondering who this young man was, but, in a second he put down his pen, stood up and gave me a massive hug: “Sayeed” he exclaimed and kept looking with tears of happiness flowing down his cheeks.

I was only seven years old when he left home in 1930, and now, a young man of 22. He could not control his excitement and immediately after the evening prayers he took me home. Apart from Farhadi Nani, the person who hugged me dearly was Piari Nano, mother of Farhadi nani.

His eldest son, Sohail, who was very close to me had passed away some years ago. Among the other children I recognized Humaira, Zubeida and Sajjad. I spent two weeks during which Chacha took me round Karachi which was then a lovely city, clean and full of life. The Bus service was as good as those in Bombay.

Every passenger had a seat and there was no segregation of male and female. Farhadi Nani had passed away in the late fifties and Mumtaz Chacha on 11th June 1964. May their souls rest in eternal heavenly peace.

Coming back to August 1951, father was the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in the Government of Pakistan. He and mother lived in a house named “Perin Villa” on Hoshang Road, close to the Clifton Bridge. Driving from the airport, both sides of the road were barren with a solitary house painted red, appropriately known as Lal Kothi, belonging to General Akbar Khan.

There were many cinema houses and restaurants, and the great thing about Karachi was the lovely evening breeze from the sea.

Uncle Nazimuddin was then the Governor General of Pakistan. While the parents took us for a drive almost every evening, in the small Vauxhall car, it was routine to go over to the Governor General’s house after dinner to spend time with Uncle and aunty Nazimuddin and the family.

By mid-September I had completed my ‘medically unfit’ period of three months, got myself medically examined by the Navy Dentist and got myself declared medically fit for service.

As soon as I reported to Naval Headquarters I was called for an interview at which Commodore Khalid Jamil was the Chairman. The interview went very well and it was suggested that, instead of a commission in the Volunteer Reserve, I could be considered for a Five-year Short Service Commission in the Special Branch for appointment as Divisional Sea Transport Officer (Pakistan). As the interview ended I was told that I would hear from Naval Headquarters in due course of time.

It was the 16th October 1951, father was going to the airport to see off the Prime Minister, Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan, who was leaving for Rawalpindi to address a Public meeting. He took me along with him. We were waiting on the tarmac next to the plane when the car, flying the Pakistan flag, came to a halt and Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan, alighted from the car and went round shaking hands with all present. I felt honoured to shake the hand of the Prime Minister, and all of us waved out to him as he boarded the plane.

As was our routine, we were getting ready for the evening drive in the car with the parents, when I heard my father shout for me saying that we were not going for the drive. It was late afternoon when father, looking very sad and broken down, informed us, that news had just been received that the Prime Minister had been shot at and he was rushed to the hospital.

We joined father at the end of the verandah where he normally sat, did his work, and met informal visitors. We hoped and prayed for the Prime Minister to survive the attack. Father kept the radio on and it wasn’t long before the sad news about Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan succumbing to the assassin’s bullet.

Father had been busy on the telephone all this time and, very soon, Mr. Fazlur Rahman, the Minister of Commerce and Mr. Altaf Hussain, Editor of Dawn arrived, the latter with a dummy of the front page of Dawn as it would appear in the morning.

There was comings and goings of other ministers who were then summoned to attend a Cabinet meeting where it was decided to request Khwaja Nazimuddin, the Governor General, to step down and take over the position of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

To the best of my knowledge father was perhaps the only person who did not support this decision, and he felt sorry that Khwaja Nazimuddin, who always had the best interest of Pakistan at heart, felt that, under the circumstances, it was his duty to accept the proposal of the cabinet and relieve himself from the high position of Governor General of Pakistan. In November 1951 Father was posted to Peshawar as the Governor of North Western Frontier Province (N.W.F.P.).

Ayesha, Nazli, then almost a year old, and I accompanied the parents. We traveled in one of the compartments and, before arriving at Peshawar, we moved to the Saloon to have breakfast with the parents.

On arrival at the Peshawar Railway Station I got off the train quickly and took a photograph of Mian Jaffer Shah, then Minister of Education, Government of N.W.F.P., receiving father. I mention this as little did we know then that, our daughter, Nazli would be married to Taimur Shah, nephew of Mian Jaffer Shah.

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