Chapter 30. Needham Always Right ?

Ludlow Pakistan Company Limited, Dhaka, was a wholly owned subsidiary of Ludlow Corporation, Needham Heights, Massachussetts, U.S.A. They also owned a Jute Mill in Calcutta under the name Ludlow Jute Company Limited which was headed by John V. Cracknell as Managing Director.

Later, he moved to the U.S.A. and his place was taken by Bernard Lewis. I, the Managing Director of Ludlow Pakistan Company Limited, reported directly to the Managing Director of Ludlow Jute Company Limited, Calcutta.

Ron Stewart, my predecessor, stayed on for a week or so to show me the ropes and hand over charge of the company. I accompanied him to Narayanganj every morning to visit our clients, various jute Balers and Shippers to inspect their jute and make purchases as instructed by Ludlow Corporation, as brokers, and signed the Ludlow Contract on their behalf.

Ron trained me well to get the feel of the fibre and to select the kind of fibre required by the two Ludlow Jute spinning Mills in Wilmington, Delaware and Indianapolis, Indiana, where they produced ‘Carpet backing’, various materials for use by the motor car industry and twine for U. S. post offices.

More than Ron Stuart, it was A.L. Rizvi, our jute inspector, who taught me how to recognize the good fibre that Ludlow mills in the U.S.A. required. He was always present whenever. I visited one of our clients. We also traveled by train to various jute centers in the interior.

Almost every year, during the cold weather we were visited by Bud Martin who was the main jute expert, and I took him to inspect jute in Narayanganj, Khulna and other centers. The trip to Khulna was most enjoyable as we traveled by steamer in what was known as the ‘Rocket Service.’

Some time after our return to Dhaka in September 1962, Nazli was admitted to Viqarunissa Noon Girls High School, and in 1965, Ayesha took her to Murree and with some difficulty managed to have her admitted to the Convent of Jesus and Mary from where she did her Senior Cambridge in 1966 and returned to Dhaka.

She did her Intermediate Arts from Holy Cross College in 1969 and then went to Kinnaird College, Lahore in 1970 .

My first meeting with the President of Ludlow Corporation, Austin B. Mason, was in January 1963 when he visited Dhaka along with his wife, and stayed with us in the company house. We held a reception in the lawn of our house, which was elegantly decorated, and hosted about 100 guests comprising of Jute Balers and Shippers, prominent citizens, Diplomats and local officials.

The most prominent guest was the late Admiral S. M. Ahsan, Chairman, I.W.T.A. He was later appointed the Chief of Naval Staff and then, Governor of East Pakistan. There were a couple more social functions for Mr. & Mrs. Mason. As a matter of fact a very important part of our lives, during the nine years with this company, was attending social functions and having guests over for meals at home or at the Intercontinental Hotel.

In April 1963 the company invited Ayesha and me to visit the U.S.A. We stayed at the Wellesley Inn, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, also famous for the Girls College. During the day, while we were at work, Ayesha was entertained and taken to various places by the ladies. I was taken care of by Ken Cornish, a Vice President, and another colleague Rai Copland.

On my first visit to the Head Office, driving up to Needham Heights with Rai, we came to a turning on the road where a Traffic sign indicated ‘Needham right’. “Yes”, said Rai, “Needham is always right”, meaning the Head Office is always right.

Before we left, we were invited by the President and his wife to spend a night in their home. This was the first of many visits – almost once a year – to the Head Office to attend Management meetings and to visit the mills in Welmington and Indianapolis. In addition, Ayesha and I, and Nazli spent two months holiday in London and Europe every other year.

In 1963 we came to New York where uncle Latif took care of Ayesha for a day before she flew to Winnipeg to visit Lal (Laila), Ziad and their first child Nicky (Nighat). I returned to Dhaka.

In July/August 1970, the year we were due leave in Pakistan, Ayesha, Nazli and I went to Kabul for a fortnight and then went up to Nathiagali. Here my holiday was cut short by two weeks as I received a cable from the Head Office to come to Needham Heights.

Leaving Ayesha and Nazli with Sajjad Ahmed and Salma in their Tobacco Company flat on Gizri Road (Down the road from where we now have our apartment) I went to the U.S.A. I was received by John Cracknell at Logan Airport, Boston, and taken to his house, where I stayed. I forget the name of that locality, but it was a half hour drive from Needham Heights.

The next day we went to the office and I was informed that a decision had been taken to close down Ludlow Pakistan and, if I agreed, I could stay on as a ‘one man operation’ while taking steps to wind up the company. It did not strike me then that it was odd to close down business at the start of the Jute season!

Without going into too many details, I agreed with the proposal and the company prepared documents to sell the company house and all its assets at book value. The house was sold in Ayesha’s name. I returned to Dhaka, collecting Ayesha from Karachi, while Nazli returned to Lahore where she was a student at Kinnaird College.

The fist thing I did, on returning to Dhaka, was to circulate to all members of Narayanganj Chamber of Commerce and Industry, details of all my office staff who were available for employment. Within two weeks, except for one Nepalese Durwan whom I kept, every one of them were employed in different companies.

Most of the office furniture, including the iron safe, were sold, and I shifted my office table to the house where I converted the guest room upstairs as my office. My day started with a visit to Narayanganj to inspect jute and make purchases as instructed by the Head Office. Returning home, I sent a coded cable to the Head office, had lunch, an afternoon nap and then off to play golf.

In the evenings we were usually busy attending cocktail or dinner parties and inviting friends over to our place. We took part in voting during the general elections in December 1970 in which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League had a thumping victory. At this stage we were all looking forward to a new beginning with the National Assembly meeting in Dhaka on 3rd March 1971.

While I was in the U.S.A. the company allowed me to take two weeks leave, which I had lost when I was called to the U.S.A. from Nathiagali. Without blinking an eye lid I said I would like to take this leave from 12th February 1971 and go to Lahore to see the First World Cup Hockey which was to take place in Lahore, and spend some time with Nazli who was then in Kinnaird College Lahore.

It so happened that the World Cup hockey was cancelled and the Horse and Cattle Show, for which we had bought tickets, was also cancelled. However, Nazli spent as much time as she could with us. On our way back to Dhaka we spent a couple of days in Karachi and returned to Dhaka around midnight of 28th February.

A number of MNAs from West Pakistan, including Mr. Ghulam Farooq, were on the flight and were hopeful that the meeting of the National Assembly would take place. Little did we know what was in store for the people of Pakistan.

However, Ayesha and I got dressed and went over to the Gulshan home of my sister Tahera and Kabir Dulha Bhai (Brother-in-law A.M.A.Kabir who was then Inspector General of Police, East Pakistan)). Our parents were staying with them. It was the 1st of March and we were anxiously waiting for the broadcast by the President General Yahya.

As 1 p.m. approached all of us sat around the radio. It was a great disappointment when we were told that the President’s speech would be read by his spokesman. The moment he declared that the meeting of the National Assembly on 3rd March has been postponed, father slapped hard on the table and said: “This is the end of everything”. We had lunch and left for home, father telling us not to venture out of the house.

Within minutes there were crowds of people everywhere. So far the slogan had been “Joy Bangla” (Victory to Bengal). On this day, for the first time, the slogan was “Shadeen Bangla” (Independent Bengal). The crowd everywhere carried Bamboos and remained on the road. No one bothered the residents anywhere.

The Awami League declared a non-co-operation movement and made sure that not a single policeman or soldier were to be seen anywhere.

One day, father received a telephone call from an unknown person. I do not remember what the person said to father, but, he was disturbed and felt he should move to Karachi. Musa Bhai, (A.M.S. Ahmad) husband of my sister Bilquis, who was then holding the post of Chairman, Planning Board, with the Government of East Pakistan, got in touch with the Army authorities to get seats for father and mother on a PIA flight to Karachi.

None were available. At that time General Ansari, very kindly offered to surrender the two seats he had on a flight so that my parents could go to Karachi. It was a very kind and generous gesture at the time, and we will always remember it.

What happened is history. In April 1971 I decided to move to Karachi. By that time I had completed buying all the Jute required by Ludlows, and as Head Offices of the shipping companies were in Karachi, I also completed arranging shipment of jute to Ludlow Corporation in the U.S.A. The company was most cooperative in making arrangements to pay my salary in Karachi and, decided not to renew my contract which ended in November 1971.


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