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The lion won’t roar again

Published Nov 28, 2012 12:20am


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IN January 2012, I wrote about Ardeshir Cowasjee after he had announced that he was “winding down”. It was a sort of farewell to him in these pages though ARFC wrote two more ‘ad hoc’ articles in 2012. But it was not the same as reading him every Sunday (or Friday, before 1997). Many readers had written to me asking if he could not be persuaded to continue writing.

On that occasion, Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi had vehemently stated, “My request to him is to roar again and again as in the past to keep all on their toes.”

They liked his writing and turned to the op-ed page of the paper to read him before they started their exercise of going through the grim reports the paper carries in these dreary times that seem to be there to stay in Pakistan.

He refused to be persuaded by his readers and last Saturday, Ardeshir Rustom Fakir Cowasjee (to borrow his style) decided to bid goodbye to them and all in this world that had provoked him into writing in the first place.

He had a big following. His punches, fearless honesty in identifying the wrongdoings and corruption of the politically powerful and the rich as well as his crisp style delighted those who made it a point never to miss out his columns though at times his writing became a headache for us who handled his copy in Dawn.

He objected very strongly to what he called our “self-censcissorship”. But for us there was always the sword of libel hanging over our head — or so we thought. But ultimately I learnt to my great relief that the veracity of what he wrote could not be challenged. He was willing to name names and got away with it because he was careful to tread on authentic ground and armed himself with relevant documents which protected him from legal action by those he attacked.

Loyal to his friends and very unforgiving to his enemies, he wrote mainly in the public interest, taking up causes which affected the common people. He had his weak spots no doubt. His “pathological” hatred of the PPP (as someone described it) was one of them. His family business had been nationalised by Z.A. Bhutto and so one could understand. But that did not stop him from sending me a copy of Salmaan Taseer’s Bhutto: A Political Biography with a warm greeting inscribed in it when I called him up to tell him I had retired from Dawn. “Tum ab kiya karega?” (what will you be doing now?) he had asked with concern and the book was at my door within an hour.

No one generally grudged him for pursuing some subjects relentlessly. He would not let them go. For instance, Karachi, the city of his birth, was one of his pet themes. It pained him to see it being destroyed brick by brick as land was encroached upon by greedy developers and the land mafia. His firm and unquestioning support for the father of the nation and for Jinnah’s Pakistan (a euphemism for a secular state) also won him friends. He minced no words in chastising the leaders of religious parties who were often ridiculed much to their anger. He, however, got away with it. His community — the Parsis — were showered with the praise they deserve because they are respected and their contribution to the civic life of this metropolis is unparalleled and is widely acknowledged and appreciated.

Much has been written and will be written about Cowasjee’s writings. As for himself he dismissed his columns as ones that were “read, may be digested and discarded”. But he underestimated himself. His writing made an impact — thanks to him the Asghar Khan case in the Supreme Court against the ISI for funding some politicians before the 1990 elections was revived.

Today his columns constitute a valuable record for this country which has little concern for preserving history or documenting it. Hence credit goes to Tyaba Habib, of Sama, for showing the foresight to undertake the job of publishing his columns in a book Vintage Cowasjee. That should be the best tribute he could have received.

What, however, needs to be pointed out is that ARFC was as much a man of action as of (written) words. He was not much of a speaker, which he himself admitted. He not only wrote about many issues but also took action when it was needed. The case against the Glass Tower builder which Cowasjee fought in the Supreme Court and won has become legendary. He managed to have the extra structure built illegally on the encroached land, along the main Clifton Road, demolished under court orders.

What is more, as the chairperson of the Cowasjee Foundation he arranged generous donations for many projects for the benefit of the poor. One could go on recounting his acts of philanthropy for there are so many.

If he trusted you, he would promptly write a cheque for he knew his money would be used for a good cause. There are so many who will remember him for the helping hand he extended — the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation and The Citizens Foundation are two prominent beneficiaries of his generosity.

Sadly the lion will not roar again. Rest in peace Ardeshir, we will miss you.

The writer is a former op-ed editor of Dawn.


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Comments (15) Closed

Subramanyam Sridharan Nov 28, 2012 08:56am
Mr. Cowasjee had ardent admirers in India for the indefatigable spirit with which he fought for justice. How we, in India, would like to have somebody like him in our midst during these dark hours ? RIP, sir.
karim Nov 29, 2012 09:40pm
Nowadays he mostly writes for Express Tribune.
Abdul j Sheikh Nov 28, 2012 06:00pm
I never read him. Could anybody sent me link or email me at one of his best masterpiece? Thanks.
Sami Nov 28, 2012 07:11am
I dont understand the similarity between roaring of a lion and "the work" of Cowasjee but yes its sad that he left us or better I should say that we lost him!
Agha Ata Nov 28, 2012 01:23pm
I wish the name of Clifton, where famous terraces and gardens were made by a member of his community and where he lived and died, be changed to COWASJEE"!
Naeem Nov 28, 2012 08:48pm
Thank you Adresher Fakir Cowasjee for providing us the asurance that there are some people who sincerely cared for Pakistan. Sir, I take my hats of to you for shaming the "shameless" and living by your convictions based on justice, honesty and fair play!!! We, Karacahities are proud and honoured to have someone like you living amongst us since independence till now. Karachites and the nation salutes you!! RIP !!
indiaatworldstage Nov 28, 2012 07:39pm
Indeed he was a great writer. What happened to Mr. Kamaran Safi. I miss his articals?
Iftikhar Husain Nov 28, 2012 12:49pm
Thank you for sharing the great contribution he has made to the society and Pakistan we will always remember him.
Sultan Alvi, Canada Nov 28, 2012 06:29am
Sadly the lion will not roar again. Rest in peace our beloved Ardeshir Cowasjee, we will miss you. May God keep you in Heaven, which you so justly deserve. Aameen!!!
Farooq Razavi Nov 28, 2012 06:29am
LONELY ARE THE BRAVE Bravo Cowasjee I wiill never forget your saying "How can you shame the shameless" The echos of your Roars will be with us when your soul is now a part of infinity
akhter husain Nov 28, 2012 07:54am
Roar of lions never die and FAKIR always lives in memories What a coincidence that Ardeshir was a saint and a fighter at the same time His contribution for curbing the habit of encroachments will always be remembered. ..
pathanoo Nov 28, 2012 05:51pm
Samreen Nov 29, 2012 08:07am
Eagerly waiting for the book containing his writings. We the younger generation of this country have missed much of our recent history due to lack of documentation and declining reading habits. This book will give us a peak into what was happening in Pakistan during his times. Good luck to Tayaba Habib. A very deserving title for ARFC's writing "Roar of a lion".
Murtaza Nov 28, 2012 06:30pm
rest in peace Mr Cowasjee, you will be missed.
Uza Syed Nov 28, 2012 09:23am
Great tribute befitting a man as great as Mr Cowasjee, thanks. O' his demise is so painful and such a great loss so collectively felt and yet so personal to all his readers. He was a man with guts and galls who stood for truth and spoke without mincing words. What an straight arrow this Mr Cowasjee was! I wish that we let his habit of 'straight talks' be his legacy and be guided by it all the time, for as another 'obituary' reminds that, " We need more people like him " ---- yes we do. Let his voice never die, let his words always echo and inspire us to emulate this great man's courage to fight for our common good. May you rest in peace and may Allah bless you Cowasjee Sahib!