The next two years after matriculating from No 1 High School were in Abbottabad Public School, the best years of my education where I made lifelong friends. The most wonderful teacher one could envisage and bestowed by God, was Mr. Hugh Catchpole (the saint) who taught our class English grammar. An instant respect and love were the spontaneous feeling which his thousands of students must have shared in India and Pakistan. He was tall and lanky, with long hands and knotted square fingers. A very elongated thumb along with his palm was dominant. He had the sharp blue eyes and thin lips, two deep lines on both sides of lips going down and lines going up from his outside of each eye made my face reading very interesting. His division of face into three zones was another challenge for my face reading prowess. The lines going up from the corners of his eyes depicted his profound sense of humor and the lines drooping down by the side of his nose were showing his skills of expressions.
In my opinion he was a saint and most of the Abbottonians must have known now the fates of those who messed with him. His small office was located besides the big hall and the stairs were leading down from the gallery. It was the second or third day of my joining school when I dared ventured into his office. “Somebody is coming with heavy boots” he remarked (It was not Zia’s era, how did he know?? It was 1975). I was wearing heavy boots with special modification and gadgets. I requested him” May I come in, Sir” Yes he replied. Then he said “I know it is Tahir Rashid”. His eyes were flickering; his mouth was twisting with smile and his glasses were resting on his long nose. I did not reckon that I met a person whom I would adore all my life.
My words always fell short when I write about Mr Catchpol. He needs no introduction; he was global and would remain so. The best attorney of the town was the reference to my father and “Paka Thug (hardcore criminal)” was my reference when I used to grow a beard. I had to take most of Catchpole’s extra English classes because of my slackness but never had the pleasure to eat his candies or sweets as I always flunked his tests. I used to envy Yahya (Babri), my dear younger brother, for showering the praise with intense love and respect by Mr. Catchpol. Babri used to get 100 percent marks by him which no other student did ever.I am always proud of fantastic Babri like his family and friends.
Once Mr. Catchpol asked me “Where did you learn this fancy English of yours which you write?” I did not know what he was referring and kept silent. There used to be a strange conversation between him and me bringing the smiles and laughter to my class-fellows. I used to talk to him in perfect Urdu and he as usual in English, he never minded it. But I had to mend my ways about English.
sab kahāñ kuchh lāla-o-gul meñ numāyāñ ho ga.iiñ
ḳhaak meñ kyā sūrateñ hoñgī ki pinhāñ ho ga.iiñ
The corrector was Mir Adnan’s father Aziz Uncle who came to see my father in one of the Abbott’s serene afternoons of spring.
“I was alone in my house when the bell rang. I went out and saw an extremely impressive man with Jinnah cap on his head. He asked me for my father. After hearing that my father was in court but about to come around this time he opted to wait for him. I sat beside him, curious who he was as I was awed by this stupendous personality. His innate confidence was oozing out with his every movement. He briefly told me about him and I was clueless. He started asking questions from me. I was ordered to bring a notebook and pen after I told him that I was studying in Abbottabad Public School. I complied immediately having no idea what he wanted to do. He wrote for a minute or two and then handed over notebook and pen to me. He wrote five direct and indirect sentences each and I was asked to change them from direct to indirect and from indirect to direct. I casually written the answers and handed him back. I flunked in all ten sentences and he explained it in writing. I was visibly upset. Sensing my extreme embarrassment and after perhaps seeing my red face, he kindly said “English needs a lot of hard work, son just put extra “. My father got late and he left, promising to visit again. When father came, I told him about Mir Sb by pointing out towards his grandeur house. He told me about this great man a lot but I did not tell him that I failed his English test miserably. Something moved inside my head and my heart. I went to Mr. Catchpole after the short spring holidays were over and requested for more extra English classes; he was bemused. Firstly I was speaking English and secondly he knew that I abhorred his Extra classes. “What has gone wrong, Fancy Boy” he asked me with his typical twisting smile. He had different names for me, Fancy Boy, Paka Thug, Heavy Boot etc. and used to call me with any of those according to situation, well. He was really surprised with my zeal and enthusiasm but not missing some awkward feelings which I was trying to hide. He acceded to my request. I was never let down on this count again “Salute to great Mir Sb”. I was not surprised to read some absorbing and magnificent articles written by Mir Adnan in The News International and also when Asif Jan Bahi told me that Mir Imran Bahi used to teach English to officer in the Navy while he was a junior cadet (The pictures are with courtesy of Mir Adnan and one can discern why I was awestruck by this great personality not knowing his background at all). He was the first Education Minister of AJK (A rarity in Pakistan of a most befitting person occupying the political post) and a leading leader of Pakistan movement. He is standing just behind Farooq Abdullah in Quid-e-Azam photograph. In one picture he is addressing the mesmerized crowd.
It was perhaps the introductory class of Mr Bader Uddin. We were waiting for him to come sitting in groups. Our group comprised of Ifthikhar Alam (Khari), Ghazanfar (Ghana) and Umar Hayat (Soofi) and me. First Soofi and Ghana told where they were living in Abbott and I did the same. I was delighted to know that Ghana and Soofi belonged to Kunj and Kahal. Now it was the turn of red cheeked Khari and suddenly the sparkles in Ghana’s eyes started beaming. It was only Tony Curtis who used to have such twinkling eyes. I interrupted Khari “Oh! You are living in the street behind Taj Mahal cinema”. I heard there was a person living in that street with big moustaches and who keeps a stick in his hand, I went further naively. Ghana’s smile was growing broader and broader and he looked extremely bemused with some anticipation. Soofi was shifting uneasily on his chair with some worried looks. I was clueless as what was happening. They were all class fellows from last school! Khari’s cheeks were oozing out now blood but I continued with fervour. “Even slightly provoked, he would dash at you when you were least expecting it and would make you run like a rabbit”. Ghana’s smile was getting markedly cheeky and mischievous making me little slow and then I heard these words “Tahir sb he is my father” I could barely hear Khari and the winds started bursting my ears. All my blood must have disappeared through my aghast and embarrassed face. I wished for the first time in my life if I could run and would have run, for never coming back! It took some real gigantic effort to apologize. I could hardly listen to my voice. Khari is great friend since then and strangely his father turned out to be my great silent friend in the years to come. “My father says that there is no able civil lawyer in Abbott to whom I should go and consult” Khari told me. I was bewildered and little embarrassed as I knew that my father’s formidable reputation as a civil lawyer was known to everybody. After a long dramatic pause he continued “My father is of the opinion that there is only one adroit civil lawyer who is extremely busy and he gives me not only time but will never take any fee from me”. “I cannot go all the time to him, his name is Khawaja Abdur Rashid and he is friend of mine”. We just laughed for a very long time.
Abbottabad Public School is pinnacle of my life where I made great friends. Ghazanfar, Umar Hayat, Iftikhar Alam, Khatab, Peer Ishfaq Shah, Asad (late), Ijaz Mushtaq, Shahzad Qazi, Hikmat a very first line mentioned in the very long and illustrious list.
“Room No 2, Jinnah House” where Jozar fizzed.
Qazi, Sohail, Aqeel and Malik, Saad shared this room. Shahzad Qazi now very senior Chartered Accountant is one of the very few friends and class fellows from APS who is not either doctor or engineer. He is one of the best tax practitioners in Rawalpindi & Islamabad and is known for no non sense from income tax department. Besides his many abilities, this trait of being upright and honest makes me proud of him. God bless him. It was in room no 2 when Abid Ishauq (the footballer) told me a funny storey about a basketball match. He was not perhaps a regular member of Basketball team but Sohail induced him to play a match after smoking a funny cigarette. “Every time I netted the ball, the ball was in the net and me on the floor”. He recalled jokingly.
The APS was buzzed with Abid’s prowess of football. I had the pleasure of watching him play only once (I don’t know why, although I was sports crazy). The two Malik brothers (Malik Ismail & Malik Sami, both doctors) were on the flanks and he was in the centre. Junior Malik passed on a ball to him before the centre line. Abid took it in the air and I could not see the ball till it was slammed into the goal. I watch Messe and recall those moments and realize that what talent we have and how we waste that talent. Later on Abid broke his two legs in a football match and quitted football for ever. It is a shame. The sporting talent of my nephew Shehryar Rashid was wasted in similar manner. By the way Abid is the Chief Proctor of Abbottabad College for the last thirteen years. This, when he told me, I was on the verge of my typical laughter but controlled it. “Watch out any three young friends” I advised him and he obviously did not understand it (The three friends are mentioned later).
Another great name from APS sporting archives is Shahid Janjua. I thought he would make to the national hockey team but he had his own plans. Mr KMC (Late) was furious with the hockey team after Rehman House lost a match. I thought he was particularly unhappy with Shahid who promised him at that time that he would practice the game during coming holidays and he will see the difference. I did not believe him and neither did KMC. But then he was a changed player. His ball control, his dribbling and his passes were treat to watch. He remained true to his words as he was adamant to recover from two fatal diseases later in his life. His father Lathif Janjua Sb was a client and friend of father. I remember reading an oft quoted cited case of contract law of my father. The applicant was Latif Sb and the respondent was government. Father proved that although the construction was not completed in time but the “essence of the contract was not time” and Latif Sb won the case.
The benevolent Shahid is running a school for blind girls with his own resources. It is his real fantastic solo effort and now his school is shifted to a lot bigger place. It was all due to his personal efforts. When I wrote about his mother in law and towering Mirza Uncle with picture of his now wife (who was barely two years old in the picture) which was forwarded to me by Asif Jan Bahi, I got threatened on the facebook. “Who are you and how you dared to post my wife’s picture on facebook?” I was scared and responded him “If you will ask like Janjua, I will not answer but this is now the wife of my worthy friend Shahid Latif” I knew he was joking and then he wrote “Khawaja jee moray Khawaja Jee” and I laughed.