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 none of my business nor should it be anyone else’s if someone dyes his hair. It is…


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…


The story of a 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 10,000. This was in the 1950s and 60s when I was going through school and college. Electricity had just come to the town, but loudspeakers hadn’t arrived yet. Not many people had a radio, and TV was 10–15 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…


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…


My First 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, 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 long…


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 ever 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…


When the boss challenged his employee to a duel. Unbelievable but true.

Two unwritten, but universally practiced, office rules are:

Rule #1: The boss is always right

Rule #2: If the boss is wrong, refer to Rule #1

Hasan Imam Kazmi, then a Senior Sales Officer at Karachi head office, didn’t follow the ‘office rules’. When he disagreed with his boss, instead of referring to Rule #1, he argued with him to prove himself right, often in others' presence. This didn’t go well with the boss who silently kept a count of Hasan’s ‘transgressions’.

Let me briefly explain here the organizational structure of the Marketing Division then.

Tony Ward was Vice President…


When company seminars ended with a ‘Happy Hour’

Metropole Karachi on the right. The white building, far left, was the Central Hotel (Photo from Pinterest)

I don’t know if any of the old Exxonians remember the Candlelight Room in the Metropole Hotel, across the street from our office. That’s where we held monthly meetings, on the last Friday of every month, after the office hours. All management employees attended these meetings where one of the senior managers would make a presentation about his area of work followed by a question-answer session. The purpose of such meetings was to make all management employees familiar with the overall operations of the company.

Dr. Mac Fuqua was the president. A Ph.D. in chemical engineering, in his 50s, from…


Replacing jute with cotton

Esso Pakistan Fertilizer Co., as Exxon Chemical Pakistan was known back then, had its head office on the 3rd and 4th floor of the Central Hotel Building, off Victoria Road (later renamed Abdullah Haroon Road), diagonally across from the Metropole Hotel.

It was 1969, the turbulent last days of Ayub Khan’s regime. Political tensions within Pakistan, especially between East and West Pakistan, were rising, and air transportation between the two wings had become uncertain.

We in the western wing depended on East Pakistan, among other things, for jute products, mainly gunny bags, which were used for storing fertilizer, grain, and…

Aziz Ahmad

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