Story of a small mud-and-stone school with volunteer teachers

Government Higher Secondary School, Mansehra (2020). Photo by the author.

Our high school in Mansehra had a British-sounding name: Bolton High School. It was named after Horatio Norman Bolton, twice Chief Commissioner of the then Northwest Frontier Province, between 1923 and 1930. (Chief Commissioner was then the chief executive of the province; the office was later replaced by that of Governor.)

As I have mentioned elsewhere, there was nothing British about the school except, perhaps, the architecture that the British employed in the hilly areas: Sloping roofs of galvanized, corrugated metal sheets, painted red or green; wide verandas; dressed-stone walls; and large glass-pane windows.

Located next to the school building…


Abu Dhabi Corniche in 1995 (Picture by the author)

You hear a very old song, drifting out of a small shop selling music cassettes. It’s Madam Noor Jahan singing in a much younger voice:
آواز دے کہاں ہے — دنیا میری جواں ہے

The shop is virtually a hole in the wall with the shopkeeper standing behind a counter. He is demonstrating taped songs to a few customers who are obviously Pakistanis, and so is the shopkeeper. For a minute, you forget that you are in Abu Dhabi. It could be anywhere in Pakistan.

This is the Abu Dhabi souk, the popular shopping center and the heart of the…


The story of a small town, a newsagent, and Donald Club

The northern corner of Mansherhar. Photo by the author, 2020

Surrounded, as it is today, by hills and snow-covered mountains in the distance, Mansehra was a quiet little town, the tehsil headquarters (similar to a county seat in the US ) with a population of about 7,000. This was in the 1950s when I was going through high school. Electricity had just come, but loudspeakers hadn’t arrived yet. Not many people had a radio, and TV was many years away.

Other than the usual sounds of people going about their daily lives, or the occasional honk of a taxi or a bus, or the distant roar of a truck driving…


How to make an effective presentation

An Exxon employee making a presentation to the sales group, in Lahore (From the author’s collection)

In the first few years of Esso Pakistan Fertilizer Company, everyone seemed to be making a presentation on something or the other. We made presentations to senior managers, to visitors from the head office in New Jersey, to groups of new hires, to our peers, and so many others. At times, it seemed as if we were in the presentation business.

We made the presentations with the help of what we called vugraphs (viewgraphs) and an overhead projector. Sometimes we used 35 mm slides. PowerPoint was 30–40 years away.

We even had a full-time employee preparing vugraphs. Sabir was his…


Kala Kola is not a beverage as the name might suggest but one of the oldest brands of black hair dyes in Pakistan.

It so happens that most Pakistani men these days, when they reach their 50s or even before, especially those we see on TV talk shows — the guests as well as the hosts — dye their hair. Some have it done professionally while others do it themselves, in the privacy of their homes using whatever in-house help is available.

It’s not my business nor should it be anyone else’s if someone dyes his hair. It is their…


A Canadian Couple travels to the Northern Areas of Pakistan

Gilgit- Hunza, Pakistan (photo Pintrest, by EK-Hunzai)

I did not expect Pir Wadhai (پیر ودھائی) to be mentioned in an international tourist book. But it is, in a book called Lonely Planet, produced by a publisher in Australia.

Those living in Rawalpindi and Islamabad would be familiar with the name. It’s a low-income neighborhood situated between the two cities and is known for a busy, and noisy bus station where van conductors, competing with each other, would almost physically pick up a prospective passenger from the roadside and pull him into their moving van before a competing van snatches him.

Buses also leave from Pir Wadhai for…


Islamia College Peshawar.

I visited Islamia, my old college in Peshawar, after several decades, a few years ago. Visiting one’s old school or college always brings back happy memories. And this visit did, too.

Among others, I met Mian Jameel, my friend, and roommate in Hardinge Hostel, Room №52. He had introduced me to the weekly Lail-o-Nihar, a leftist magazine, and Naqoosh, a literary magazine, and I used to tell him the stories that I had read in different books.

But the visit also erased some of the beautiful images preserved in my mind.

The college was built in 1913, conceived as a…


Things you must never do during a job interview

I traveled from Peshawar to Karachi for my first job interview with a large multinational engaged in manufacturing and marketing fertilizer. I had applied for a marketing job.

Having recently returned from the US with a Master’s degree in Soil Chemistry, I was hopeful about my interview — yet a bit nervous.

The company’s head office was located diagonally across the Metropole Hotel, on Victoria Road, Karachi, where I reported at the appointed time.

They processed me through the Human Resources department (they called it Employee Relations then, or ER for short) where, among other things, they gave me a…


How they are similar — and dissimilar

Hagia Sophia — Photo by Oleksandr Naumenko on Pinterest

Turkey is probably the only country that continues to receive Pakistanis warmly. Pakistanis know Turkey not only as another Muslim country but a country that was home to the caliphate (Khilafat-e-Osmania) for several centuries.

They also know Turkey because of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (died 1938) whom they rate high among the Muslim leaders, just as they do their own Quad-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.


His long-held wish to travel abroad was fulfilled but not in a way he had dreamed.

PIA Boeing 720

He had one regret. That he had never traveled outside of Pakistan.

I’m talking about Zaki, officially known as S. M. Zaki. He was one of the early employees of Esso Pakistan Fertilizer Co. (EPFCL). A graduate of Tando Jam, he joined the company as an agronomist, sometime in 1965–66.

I got to know him closely when the company extended its marketing operations to parts of the then Frontier Province and created a separate division reporting to the head office. We both were posted there, he in Abbottabad and I in Peshawar.

Zaki was a soft-spoken, slow-paced, and amiable person…

Aziz Ahmad

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