PUNJAB UNIVERSITY HOSTELS – FREEDOM UNLEASHED

It was fall 1967. The start of a new session in Punjab University. Hassan Nisar (then known as Israr Ul Haq) and I were driven from Lyallpur to the New Campus by Uncle Mian Nisar ul Haq (Hassan’s Father) in his stylish light blue Berlina.  The journey was full of guidance and advice mainly directed at Hassan.  I had moved from a rather disciplined environment from a Priest run Burn Hall in Abbotabad to freedom of Lyallpur with all the youthful exuberance and energy.  This freedom, after completing Matric from La Salle and joining Government College Lyallpur, got to my head.  I made serious digs at Students Union activity and got into naughty scrapes that did not sit well with my parents. Unknown to me, a decision was made by them over summer of 1967 to nip the evil in the bud and move me away from Lyallpur.  

My Father, Dr. Abdul Hameed Khan, a PHD in Botany was Head of Advance Studies in Agriculture University Lyallpur. Dr. Sher Ahmad Lodhi, Professor of Botany at PU, had taken on the responsibility of Dean of Undergraduate Studies. They were great friends.  Knowing what I know now, a plot was hatched to move me to academic and sophisticated environment of PU.  At least that is what they thought! Both Hassan and I were allocated rooms in hostel No.1 of PU (now known as Quaid e Azam Hall) as were most of new BA Honours’ Students. Till the onslaught of undergrads hostel No.1 was considered the quiet abode of choice by graduates following their academic pursuits seriously.  That was to change drastically in the days to come, and not for better! Quiet surroundings changed into the nosiest hostel.

Lodhi Sb was the Warden of hostel No.1 and Dr. Khairat Ibne Rasa, future VC of PU was the Superintendent. Under their watchful, yet benevolent, eyes mixing serious post grad students with glamour struck honours’ students required serious adjustments for all. This new life and freedom of 24/7 with some brief interruptions of “academic classes” was a life changing experience. Under Grads of Hostel No.1 and its spill-over to Hostel No. 2, were diverse characters from all over the country and beyond. Their memories have left a serious imprint that is still fresh in mind and soul.  My network was a bouquet collection from Lyallpuris to Burn Hall, from Karachi to Dacca, from Palestine to USA, from Quetta to Kohat. This motley crowd was a recipe for a life full of fun and some rude shocks. I will make some brief introductions, details will come in someone else’s biography.  

Leading the pack was Iftikhar Feroze, lovingly called “Dhily”, who left us earlier this year after prolonged illness in USA cared for by his son Taha Feroze.  Iftikhar was the General Secretary GS Students Union, Lyallpur.  Former Governor Punjab General Khalid Maqbool and I were his main supporters against all the sportsmen aligned. I still don’t know how we survived this ordeal!  A fiery speaker, passionate and caring friend with well honed tea making expertise in his room, he had joined Applied Psychology.  He was instrumental in politicizing and sensitizing me to realities of life. He moved me beyond being an English school background Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard fan, enjoying the fun side of life with an eye for the fairer sex.  His departure has left an indelible mark. 

Prince Barkat of Nagar, a school friend had joined Foreign Service. He did not survive a traffic accident in Iraq, May he rest in peace. Prince we miss your sense of humor & elegance. Ghaffar Mehmand, my crony from Burn Hall had also landed in hostel No.1.  Barkat and Ghaffar’s cars gave us much needed wheels.  My rustic friends included Rahim Din of Garh Maharaja (a city near Jhang). He went on to join the Pak Army, retired as a Major and left us early. My hostel wing mates Stylish Maqbool Malik, and argumentative Ijaz “By God” have both departed. May Allah bless all of them.

Hostel 1 housed some other colorful characters. D.G Khan let loose Rajab Ali Pitafi, lovingly called “Fokker”, Sher Qadir “Shikari” and Salahuddin “Sallo” Durrani lovingly called “3 in 1” for combining Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar plus Raj Kapoor. Fruit shops stocks started to deplete at night and so did fruit gifts of students in their rooms. Usman Ghani, “kana” Javed Cheema, Javed Qureshi “kukar” and few others expanded the scope of D.G. Khan crew! And then there was the Kasur contingent with Anwar Chaudhry, Afzal Sheikh, Inayat, and a few others. Sticking together with adequate dry fruit supplies, these gentle souls found a way to our hearts through our stomachs. My cousin Farooq Khan Tareen appointed himself as my guardian chaperoning us on our walking treks to Liberty market through the green fields, now turned into Garden Town. He would quietly subsidize when we wanted a burger meal to offset effects of hostel “hazris”, the name of hostel mess food. He would intervene when we got into unnecessary arguments in Liberty or if there was need of a steely fist to protect. 

And then there was sophistication at its height represented by talented Khawaja Saleem from Pindi. He left us early before getting an opportunity to blossom. May he rest in Peace. His close buddy Retd IG Jahangir Mirza Sb still showers us with his love and presence and completing the troika was former High Commissioner India, Canada Ambassador Shahid Malik. I wish them well. Our landscape would be incomplete without mentioning our Bengali friends ABM Farooq (Babul), Abdul Ali, Hussain and Dewan, and Shahid Qureshi, Dr. Zia Uddin (Dr. Zhivago) and Saeed Hadi from Karachi. Zhivagos’s shenanigans would cover a full post, but another time. For style and polite demeanor we had Munawar Ghafoor, kitted out in then famous “Hopson” shoes and Asghar, and Zahid, the Gardezis from Multan and Sajjad “Saji” of “Suno meray bundhoo ray” fame hailing from Lyallpur. Try visualizing a rainbow when you put together such diverse backgrounds, cultures, preferences, life styles with varying sleep habits. It was a fun filled zoo.

All these colorful characters would roam the corridors of shopping area of New campus, STC cafeteria, New Campus corridors, ogling at girl students. Remembering these friends especially those who departed is an attempt to weave together valuable memories otherwise Masood dharu said it all when he would croon “yeh retain, ye mousam, ye hasna hasana, hamain bhool jana, inhain na bhulana”   on moonlit nights along the banks of the gorgeous canal weaving through the New Campus. TO BE CONTINUED.

– MY TREASURE CHEST, BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE
PU JOURNEY – CHAND NIKLA TERI SURAT LAY KAR- (DHARU), THE GOLDEN YEARS OF MY LIFE

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