He was an amazing father and a great man – Happy birthday Abbaji!
He would have been 90 today if he had not passed away last year. A lot of people have said that we were lucky to have had him in our lives for so many years – and I know that we were indeed fortunate. But no matter how old a father is when he passes away, it is too soon. It leaves a vacuum that is impossible to fill. No day passes by that we don’t think of him, of the person that he was, and all the things he did for us and others.
I was speaking with someone the other day about Abbaji – and he said “Mushtaque Sahab did so much for so many people. He was responsible for getting employment for a lot of people, for giving them the opportunity they needed to build their lives and progress in their careers”. And it is true. When I think about the number of lives he impacted, it truly amazes me. And he never expected anything in return except perhaps a smile or a visit now and then to update him on their progress. He was also a mentor to many.
My father was very well respected by all who knew him and worked with him. He started his career with the Bank of China in Karachi in 1948 but was then “gifted” to the National Bank of Pakistan five years later when the Bank of China closed its operations in Karachi. He was a banker for 43 years in Karachi, in Hong Kong and in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He was a man of integrity and was a person whose handshake was enough of a commitment.
The officials at the Bank of China were well known to him. In later years we discovered that the President of the Bank of China was an old colleague and friend of Abbaji’s. I remember that in the many years that we spent in Hong Kong, they visited us often and considered Abbaji to be a close associate.
In 1995 the Government of the People’s Republic of China appointed Abbaji as the only foreign advisor to China on the transfer of Hong Kong to PRC in 1997. That was indeed a great honor for him and for Pakistan. He was very disappointed that the Government of Pakistan never accorded him any recognition for this great honor that he brought to his country. But then do they ever really recognize people who deserve to be recognized?
Abbaji was the greatest PR man I have ever known. It didn’t matter what anyone needed done – friend or foe or a complete stranger. They just had to mention it and Abbaji would go to every extreme to make sure that their work was done. Our house was always full of guests. He used to say to Ammi ” I don’t have any vices – I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t gamble – the only vice I have is entertaining people.” And entertain he did. I remember cooking for 100 people at a time sometimes when he decided to throw a big party at the house. We always had a variety of dishes on the table from different types of salads, meats, fish, curries, barbecues and numerous desserts because Abbaji had a sweet tooth. He would say “There is a separate place in your tummy for desserts.”
Once he went to Hong Kong airport to drop off one of his guests. There he saw an Indian couple who seemed to be fretting so he went up to them and asked if everything was alright. They told him that someone from the Indian High Commission was supposed to pick them up but there was no sign of him. Abbaji said “No problem. Come home with me and I will have you dropped off at their home after a while”. It was 6 a.m. on a Sunday when he brought them home. He asked me to make puris, tarkari, suji ka halwa, chanas etc which I did. After they had a nice breakfast, he phoned their hosts and arranged to have them sent over to their home. As the Indian couple left, the wife said to Abbaji “Aap to bhagwan bun kar aagaey humaray liyay” (You descended as a god (I guess she may have meant angel) to rescue us). That was Abbaji – ever ready to assist, to be the saviour for any person in distress. He raised funds for many causes – people parted with their money easily whenever he asked because they trusted him and knew that he would make sure it went to the right organizations and causes.
Is it any wonder then that people remember my father with great affection and miss him immensely. As for us, his children, all we can do is thank God for having given us a father whom we can be proud of, who worked hard to give his family whatever he could afford, whose honesty and integrity everyone would vouch for. He instilled in us values that have become an intrinsic part of our makeup. All we can do is live the life he wanted us to and hope that he is looking down on us with pride.
Happy birthday Abbaji. We love you.