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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Pakistan -C Z Abbas

What made me leave London, my home since birth for the ‘unknown’? By the end of 1950, the renowned short story writer, Ghulam Abbas, working for the BBC as head of its Urdu Service to South Asia, and myself, Christian Vlasto, 29, unmarried, artist and schoolteacher, had become indispensable to each other.

I knew he had a mother, wife and four kids back in Pakistan and that he sent part of his salary home to them every month. In fact, I worried for them at times when the month was over and I knew the money had not gone. I had to be careful, the family was his, not mine.

Abbas was, for the first time in his 45 years, enjoying the ‘freedoms’ he had become so familiar with through his wide reading of literature, and he was revelling in them. We first met at a get-together of mostly Urdu speaking students, organised by Ijaz Batalvi, poet and at that time student of law. I had been introduced to Ijaz by a Turkish student who lived in another apartment in the same block. Abbas was squatting on the floor at the far end of the room. Ever-unable to squat, I was sitting on a stool in front of him. Neither of us liked parties, while recitations and action took place in the front, Abbas and I talked softly in English. We shared many thoughts and interests. Subsequently, time and again, strange coincidences brought us together and the times we shared were always golden.

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