HE was a godsend, I thought. Particularly, after my nasty brush, to put it very mildly, with the military regime whose “90 days” extended infamously to an 11-year long night of terror and its kangaroo courts, a bloody tale that requires a separate volume. More so as I felt at the time like a fish out of water in a business I knew nothing about. He read it well – quite intuitively; and suggested a job he had in mind for me in Riyadh. I accepted it… willy-nilly – not because of what it entailed but where it was based. In the event, it proved to be the shortest stint in any ad agency during my entire advertising career – for no fault of his though. But again it’s another story that needs to be told some other time.
HE was instrumental in bringing some semblance of normalcy to my otherwise quite forgettable 2-and-a-half-months as creative manager at Shamel Advertising & PR. HE would take me around the length and breadth of the Saudi capital city on long drives in his vintage Chevrolet Malibu Classic almost daily during the silly 3-hour break (1pm to 4pm) at the office. We drove almost aimlessly, so it seemed to me at least; he would immediately change the route if he suddenly remembered some long-forgotten task – this only wasted a few precious minutes of the intense discussion we always had on any topic under the sun.
At night on weekends, we often went to the Diplomatic Enclave and their lavish parties; of the ones at the Turkish and the Sri Lankan embassies, I have vivid memories. As far as I can recall Riyadh has very little to offer in terms of historical sites for the “traveler” in me. No social life worth mentioning and I doubt if I ever set my eyes on a Saudi woman there. Yet, thanks to him, I can recall my visits to Dari’yah, a Nejdi Fort, a horse racing gala, bullion market, grand souks and Lebanese Shawarma jaunts. On hindsight, I would say that this brief sojourn was enough to provide me with a glimpse into the Saudi society that came across to me as racist, bigoted and misogynist behind the infrastructural razzmatazz.
I often wonder why our paths crossed. After all we never were class-fellows, colleagues or even friends until we met in the late 1980’s. I knew him then as Abdul Hafiz Mir’s elder brother. He had this very cute and innocent notion that Kashmiris were a very, very superior race and I was like ‘you must be kidding’ on what I called ethnic narcissism. I often joked with him about this and he was seldom amused. That apart, he was generous to a fault. Ever willing to go out of his way to help, he could never say no. This was his single most important strength and weakness at the same time. A ‘jiyala’ to the core, one of those rare Bhutto admirers, so emotional, he would not hide even a tearful eye.
His professional panache and career path is duly covered in the link as follows. It’s so reassuring that Dawn remembers even its former employees with such empathy. http://epaper.dawn.com/DetailNews.php?StoryText=09_03_2014_176_004
HE had the physique and looks of a Hollywood star, every inch, and the way he walked and even talked. That certain stammer he had, sounded almost like a natural pause. What a great character. Three words that define him best, in my opinion, should be Selfless, Mercurial, Sensitive. Good bye, and may you rest in eternal peace, my benefactor, my friend, Abdul Majid Mir!