Nostalgic Smiles

Habib Khan, Quetta: When I moved to Karachi in February 1974 –to join NED Engineering College, I spent the initial weeks with my cousin Abdullah Khan, who was pursuing his Master’s in English Literature at the Karachi University. The university hostel had students from all parts of the country. Although the atmosphere was somber and quiet in the hostel rooms, it was much more vibrant in the common rooms and dining halls. Soon, I realized that KU students had a peculiar and advanced sense of humor, unlike what I was used to in Quetta.

On my first day, I observed a handwritten notice pasted by a student, which read something like, “My pen has been stolen in the university bus, but somehow the cap remained stuck in my pocket. I request the thief to please come forward and grant me the honor of delivering the cap to him too, so that at least one of us could make full use of the pen.”

Later, at NED College, there was a group of students who called themselves “The Fools” and used to arrange satirical exhibitions targeting different student groups, political parties and even the faculty.

Mr. Ganatra was an elderly teacher, and it seemed that despite of old age he would never retire. In one of the Fools exhibitions targeting Mr Ganatra, there was an exhibit, a cheating material called a “phurra”, a very old and crumpled paper with indistinguishable writing in miniature script had the following caption, “This is that precious phurra which Mr Ganatra had retrieved in 1924.”

Then there were groups of other funny people and the most popular was the duo of “Ahsan and Kukkan (Nusrat)”–the two were experts in making people laugh in the canteen and were specialists in explaining humorous meanings of Urdu proverbs.

One day, a student who was also the chairman of our party (Progressive Students Front~PSF), was talking to a beautiful girl in the lobby, when Ahsan announced that if someone had difficulty in understanding the meaning of the Urdu proverb, “Hoor Ke Saath Langoor”, he can now enjoy a visual display of the same.

Later on when the PSF chairman confronted Ahsan, he wittingly replied that “by the word hoor I meant you, Mr Chairman”.

The NED hostel version of Ahsan and Kukkan were two extremely naughty boys Zaheer Bugti and Wahab Mengal; they were rather funnier because, both were multilingual and could use all the major Pakistani languages.

When a boy “Shahji” who had never been to Balochistan joined NED on a seat reserved for Balochistan, Zaheer and Wahab made life terrible for him (in funny sense).

They would introduce Shahji to others as, “please meet Mr Shahji from the Lyallpur District of Balochistan” (Lyallpur now Faisalabad is in Punjab). Most of their jokes were so outrageous that it is impossible to mention them here.

After retirement, Bugti settled in Karachi and Mengal in his native town of Mastung. It is very rare that they could get together, but last Wednesday when Bugti was in Quetta to attend a wedding, Mengal came over from Mastung and thankfully gave me a call. The three of us got together for dinner at a local restaurant. We had a great gupshup filled with nostalgia and laughter, to the extent that in the heat (or cool) of discussions Bugti even forgot to eat the garlic bread that he had ordered for himself.

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