While much has been written about ZIM Sahib, it mostly alludes to his journalistic career. Having known him since childhood and with him playing an integral part of one’s life, a few personal anecdotes might be able to capture the man behind the newspaperman.
My earliest memories of ZIM Sahib are of the Pakistan Times, where he shared a room with my father, Tahir Mirza. On occasional visits there, our intrusion was warmly welcomed, while we eagerly looked forward to a lunch of delicious ‘chikar cholas’, wrapped in leaves from ‘Gowal Mandi’.
When ZIM Sahib and my father were together at the ‘Viewpoint’, my father had acquired an old ‘Volkswagen Beetle’ and would often pickup ZIM Sahib from his home. The car was prone to stall and needed to be pushed, to start it again. ZIM Sahib would often jokingly ask his mother, who often stood in veranda to observe these antics, to come push the car.
The amazing thing about ZIM Sahib was that while he was Abba’s friend and colleague he had time and patience for us and was like a friend to us. His kindness and support, especially in my case were numerous. Having once wrote an article for the Viewpoint, while quite young, which was surprisingly published, ZIM Sahib called me aside and handed me a very encouraging note along with some cash.
Again he was there when one attempted a brief sojourn into journalism. He accompanied me to a then recently launched English daily belonging to a large media house on Davis Road. The offices were housed on the top floor and the lift was mostly out of order. Climbing the stairs which was even then difficult task for him, he introduced me to the editor, Hussain Naqi Sahib. Finally, he was kind enough to insist that his house be designated as the bride’s house, since my wife was out of town and it was his house that my wedding took place.
Socially the families would interact often, since both lived one block away in Model Town. He had a lovely old, spacious house with a huge lawn, with two mango trees, on each side of the lawn. These were a magnet for all visiting children, if not for the fruit in season, for climbing. Zim Sahib would invariably be found next to his bedroom window overlooking the lawn, from which he would shout a greeting. He was rarely found alone. There was always a friend, admirer, or a student from among his vast social and professional circle.
One has vague memories of him in a bush-shirt and trousers from my younger days. Later a shalwar-kameez and in the winters, a shawl wrapped around with a cap, which kept changing over time, especially at home, would be his trade-mark clothing style. Apart from journalism, his passions were cricket and music. When visiting our house he would always ask my uncle, a music enthusiast, to put on Kundan Lal (K. L. Saigol) along with a well chosen expletive. The use of expletives was in most cases affectionate, especially in English with a hearty ‘bloody’; what followed depended on his mood.
Cricket was his other love. A book authored by him was aptly titled “Last Man In.” He would often write about cricket and was versed in numerous obscure technicalities and statistics of the game
I last met him when I went to his new house, Canal Gardens in Bahria Town, to seek his permission to start the Lahore Diary, in which I dabbled for a couple of years. Despite being bed-ridden and suffering from numerous ailments, the smile along with the mischievous sparkle in eye was still there. Despite the adversities he kept his wicket with grace till the end. Well played Sir.
A fond and final farewell from one Lahori to another: much missed, may you rest in peace.
Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2019