My Other Story

by | Sep 16, 2009 | Stories | 0 comments

( Two years in Pakistan )

During my last few weeks in Calcutta, I received my embarkation orders to proceed back to the UK for demobilization. So I went through a period, once again of bidding farwell to all my many friends that I had made in Calcutta.

Sir David Ezra and Lady Ezra gave me a dinner party for me for my farewell. At his long dining room table were many guests, among them was a man named Albert Judah. He was a wealthy pharmaceutical manufacturer and we started chatting and he asked me about my future. I said that I wanted to get into the field of commerce, but that I had no definite plans. So he invited me to his office on the following morning. I turned up. After a bit of talking, he told me that upon returning to London to go to his London office and learn something about his business. He wanted me to be ready and prepared to go to the newly created country of Pakistan where his market was going to be cutoff. He wanted somebody to represent his interests, someone who was not a Muslim, not a Hindu, not a Jew, but a neutral Englishman like me. So I said that I would give it consideration which I did.

When I arrived in England, I worked in Albert Judah’s London office for a few months. The manager in this office spent most of his time bragging to his friends over the phone that he had now become British as he was a refugee from Germany. So in the few months that I spent in this office, I really learned nothing. When Albert Judah asked me to open the office in Pakistan, my mother was ill. I was torn between staying with her and going to Pakistan. She persuaded me to go and thank God that she recovered. So I embarked on a ship at Southampton. Here I boarded and I went into a very large bar, sat at a table and read a book. The bar of course was not open and after awhile, a lady from another table came up to me and asked me for a light. So I struck a match and gave her a light and back she went to her table. Sometime later, she came up to me again, asking me for another light. I gave her another light and back she went again. By now the ship had set sail and when we were beyond the three mile limit, the bar opened. All the prices for the drinks, cigarettes etc plunged. This lady again came up to me for a light. Incidentally, all the ship’s tables had ashtrays and matches. She asked me if I would like a drink and I said that I would have a beer. She went to the bar and ordered a drink for herself and a beer for me. We then sat down together at me table. We then became quite good friends and saw a lot of each other during the three week voyage.

There were also many tea planters on board returning to India from their annual leave. Amongst them was a rather large planter who played draughts (checkers). He and I had a game. The first game that we had, I beat him. He was so impressed that he was always on the lookout for me aboard the ship to have another game of darts. We played again and again, but I never beat him again.

Life on board the ship was pleasant with a library, swimming pool, dance floor, orchestra etc. When we arrived in Bombay to my utter surprise, this lady who I had accompanied was met by her husband. I had no idea that she was married. He took us to the Taj Mahal Hotel, the best hotel in Bombay and perhaps in India and there we had a farewell lunch. He was the top CEO of one of India’s railway companies and off they went to Calcutta and I never saw them again.

In Bombay, Albert Judah had a branch of his company run by his son named Derek. Derek, Jimmy Finely, a fellow passenger on the ship and I decided to go to Goa as it was getting close to Christmas and we thought it would be a nice place to celebrate the holiday. Ever since independence, Bombay had declared Prohibition. None of us were alcoholics, but we did fancy a wee drop at Christmas time and Goa was a better choice.

Therefore, we decided to take a boat trip to Goa, on a nice calm sea. It was a pleasant little voyage. Now Goa, in those days, was a colony of Portugal. It was not part of India, but still a very beautiful place. I loved the long sands where you could walk for miles and miles, the palm trees, the gentle wind of the Arabian Ocean etc.

When we arrived the three of us needed to find a hotel. We wandered around Goa for a hotel and found nothing really suitable that we would call a hotel as indoor plumbing was a requirement. So a taxi driver advised us to go to the airport where there was a modern hotel that met our requirement. Goa today, has many five star hotels.

We checked in and settled down for the night when someone drove up and introduced himself to us. He was the British Consul who had heard that three British men were going around Goa looking for a hotel. He was told that we were at this hotel. After a bit of a chat, he told us that he was giving a party at his place, the address escapes me now, and he invited us to join him. He told us, of course, that it was evening dress which none of us had. As a result, the three of us rushed down to the local bazaar and bought material that was absolutely dirt cheap. I bought a white shark skin material and black suiting. I took it to a tailor who was readily available on the sidewalk with a sewing machine in tow sitting under the brilliant sunshine. One said that he would make me a beautiful evening suit and he measured me up and in 24 hours, I had a beautiful white shark skinned jacket, black trousers with silk sewn up the side, a white shirt and a black evening tie. My two friends did the same thing.

Now that we were suitably dressed, we turned up at the British Consul’s party. It was a sight to see, a large wooden dance floor outside, with lights all over the place. All the gentlemen were in their evening attire and the women were either in long evening dresses or in Indian native Saris, long and beautiful, weighed down by silver or golden hems.

At this party, I was introduced to a new drink, a Black Velvet. It consisted of a glass of Guinness and a glass of Port which goes down very pleasantly. The three of us danced the night away. What a wonderful night with great food, drink and great company.

While in Goa, we visited many of the Old Portuguese churches, Portuguese homes, Portuguese buildings, Hindu temples, many restaurants including one owned by Four Germans. During the war, Portugal was neutral. Therefore, the colony of Goa was neutral. At this time, some German ships decided to go to Goa, hand themselves over to the Portuguese authorities and lead a happy neutral life. The four German sailors who were running this restaurant decided to stay in Goa as they had married women from this colony. They served excellent food and after the meal, we chatted with them. They all turned out to be absolute, thoroughly indoctrinated Nazis. They were absolutely convinced that Hitler was one hundred percent right and that Germany was being encircled by the allies. The only hope of survival, in their eyes was to make war to defend Germany and we were all absolutely wrong. This was enlightening because we had many talks with them and to listen to their contrasting views with our views of what they had done. As Germany lost the war, they decided to remain in Goa where they were perfectly happy with their new families.

After our stay in Goa, we finally returned to Bombay where I spent a short while supposedly learning the business from Derek (not much from what I remember). So off I went to Pakistan by plane to Karachi and Derek promised to ship me a load of pharmaceuticals as soon as I arrived. As I flew into Karachi, I looked out of my window and I saw all the lights below and thought that this was the city where I was going to make a fortune.

After landing, the first thing that I had to do was find a place to live. I could not find a single hotel with accommodations because all the rooms were packed with refugees or Muslims who were flown, shipped, walked or driven from India. They were completely homeless and I was now in the same state. So there was no place to stay. I was in a real pickle. A taxi driver told me to try the YMCA. I ventured to the YMCA and met the manager who turned out to be a Canadian and he was packed with the Muslim refugees. The only thing that he could do was to put me up in his own apartment where he already had a missionary staying with him. So I took him up on his offer. He turned out to be a very interesting artistic homosexual, as many of them are. When he found out that I was not in the slightest way interested, we became good friends and the topic was never mentioned again. I lived in his apartment for a week or two while I looked for a new place to stay and we parted company on good terms. Now and again, we would meet for lunch and he introduced me to a number of influential people that he knew.

The next immediate task that I had to perform was to find a warehouse where I could store my pharmaceuticals that I was expecting. I also needed an office and found certain agents who wanted money which is called baksheesh out there. I managed to find someone who found me a small office and small go down big enough for my pharmaceuticals after an unpleasant incident.

In India and Pakistan, their economy revolves around something called baksheesh. Now baksheesh is somewhere between a tip and a bribe. It is used all the time to get the oils wheeled, to get thing moving. I had given baksheesh to my slimy so-called agent who would do anything for a little baksheesh. He did little for me, so I tracked him down and demanded my money back. He attacked me so I hit him back and one of his cronies came from behind and pinned me down. We eventually sorted it out and he promised me an office and storage area which he fulfilled.

After that, came the small matter of getting an import liscense. So I had to go to a rather ram shackle office which was in the ram shackle building of the new government of Pakistan. At the door, was a peon who you could not get pass without a little baksheesh. Once you got in, you had to explain your situation to the clerk. Then you need to be referred to the chief clerk who will only see you if you present, you guessed it… baksheesh. Once you see him, you must reiterate your request to him. He then, informs you have to see the assistant minister. The chief clerk request baksheesh, of course. You then get to see the assistant minister and recap your entire story, only for him to tell you that you need to see the minister, only if you have baksheesh. In the end, you get to see the mighty minister who can issue the import license, but it would cost you so much in baksheesh. Once you paid this, you can get your liscense. In the meantime, I was waiting for a shipment of pharmaceuticals from Bombay. I tried to get in touch with Derek Judah who was out all the time, enjoying life, partying, doing nothing. This was very frustrating.

Eventually, the shipment arrived and it was placed in the storage area, on duck boards, away from white ants that can be very destructive. The next thing was to start selling the pharmaceuticals. I found that a lot of the items were of no use to me, but necessary for the Pakistanis. At that time there was a war going on between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. So there was a lot of anti-Indian sentiment that I had to struggle against as my products were imported from India, but in spite of that, I did start to build a bit of a business.

I then decided to travel all over Pakistan, setting up agencies in all the major cities. I was about to reserve accommodations at hotels when a Muslim friend of mine said that I would do no such thing as I was to stay with his friends. This man seemed to have friends just about everywhere. He wired his friends ahead in Hyderarad, Multan, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. I traveled by train and when I arrived at all these various railway stations, there were his friends waiting at these platforms for me. They carried my bags into a horse drawn carriage and then we went to the free accommodations provided.

One must have heard that westerners were all drunks because in my bedroom, there was a bottle of scotch waiting for me. I had to accept this generous gift so as not to offend. This shows how hospitable these people were In Lahore, I was taken around to see the sights and a saw the gun that Kim sat on in Rudyard Kipling’s tale called Kim. I went to other cities and received the same hospitalities as I set up these various agencies.

When I arrived in Peshawar, the nearest Pakistan city to Afghanistan, I thought that I would like to go through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan. So off I went. The Khyber Pass was occupied by the British troops for hundreds of years and it was full of guns and fortresses and the last British troops had just been withdrawn. Not until then was a westerner allowed through the Khyber Pass without a British military escort because of the element of danger involved. There was a tribal area where you had the fierce pathans that were heavily armed with their guns, ammunitions, revolvers, daggers etc. So we got on this rickety old bus full of these fierce black bearded Pathans similar to what we see as the Taliban today. They said to me that I was the first white man to go through the Khyber Pass without a military escort, but don’t worry, we will take care of you.

Half way through the voyage, the bus stopped and a rather small fellow got off. He turned to me before he left and asked me upon my return to Pakistan if I would have lunch with him. Yes was my response. So he told the bus driver that on the way back to stop and we would go and have our lunch.

So on to Afghanistan we continued and at the border, some of these Pathans went off into Afghanistan. I could not converse with them as their language was Pashtu and I only understood Urdu. If I would have gone north and had three feet, I would have been able to stand in Pakistan, Afghanistan and China all at the same time. But as I only had two feet, I could only stand in Pakistan and Afghanistan, astride the border and walked a few yards with the sentry on duty; therefore I can say I was in Afghanistan.

Eventually the bus was ready to take more Afghani’s and Pathans back into Pakistan, through the Khyber Pass. So we proceeded back to Pakistan and halfway the bus driver stopped where my little friend was waiting for me with our lunch. The Pathans, with their guns, revolvers etc sat in a circle around me, like a protective barrier as I ate lunch with my friend. The lunch consisted of curried vegetables, hard boiled eggs, chapattis and water. We had a wonderful lunch. I shook hands and got on the bus with my new protective barrier and headed back to Pakistan safely without harm.

A few weeks after my visit to the Khyber Pass, a well armed Pathan came into my office in Karachi. We started to talk about the supplies that were needed up in the mountains and other areas when all of a sudden, he jumped up, took out a prayer rug, placed it on the floor of my office and started praying towards Mecca. How he knew the direction of Mecca is beyond me, but they do this five times a day. When he finished praying and got his inspiration, we continued with our negotiations.

In Pakistan, during the hundreds of years that the British ruled India, the big danger was that the Russians would invade. The Russians could only enter through the Khyber Pass, so the British built many fortresses on each side of the mountains which were bristling with guns. In the northwest province of India, there were British camps, bases and cantonments readily on the alert for invasion. Now the tribal areas were so fierce and unruly that the British could never subdue them. The only way to keep the peace every now and again was to give them large quantities of gold. These tribesmen at times, would come into India, creep into the military bases and cantonments and steal rifles, ammunition and guns and used them against the British troops. One time, they crept into the military base and kidnapped a young daughter of a British Colonel. The British army searched for her throughou


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