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Saturday, 21 May 2011

Fort Galle.. My memories of people and places, way back then !

I have no idea why my father put up a name board calling  our house " Pakistan House" which stood on the corner of Lighthouse St and Rampart St, Fort. I am inclined to think that this came about out of gratitude to Pakistan ....on a deal that happened when wapa (Vadood Careem) was in London..'broke' in London and knowing not what to do or where to go ! His wife and family..in Fort Galle.. relied on money he could send..to enable Thaiba his wife..to meet with the daily living expense of feeding and clothing the family.


Wapa told me that he was whacking away with two fingers on a borrowed Underwood Typewriter, writing to friends and contacts in Karachi, Pakistan , offering all sorts of English manufactured products..mostly used.. ( second -hand goods..the terminology of the days of the past). He was barely able to sustain himself in London..as translator of French into English language and in the process picked up some clients wanting to learn 'spoken' French..Some clients called him 'professor' !..he said. For those who did not know...my father spoke 12 languages...and he mentioned that his FRENCH was better than his ENGLISH.


Wapa mentioned that he hung a handwritten sign on a piece of cardboard..outside his meagre flat..the sign that enabled him to earn a few English Pounds..out of which he paid his rent and bought food. There were those who sincerely advised him not to 'waste' his time trying to deals.. which established business sectors are masters of....and there is not much hope for a 'broke' individual to break into the export-import trade in England.


Wapa mentioned that he drew inspiration with the example of his uncle MA RAHEEM who went to Singapore without anything and proceeded to establish a famous diamond jewellery business in Singapore...So, he battled on..writing to those he knew in Pakistan and offering ANYTHING from England.. at unmatched prices..He had nothing to lose except the time he spent on a battered old typewriter...and  the cost of stamps ..to post his letters.


Then one day, a friend of Mubarak Ali Khan.. wapa's friend in Karachi...enquired if he could get hold of second hand blankets..cheap.. offered for sale to the poor 'freezing' populace of Pakistan.
His mind took him to the days of Madras India.,where he and his elder brother Ozman were contractors to the English Army...for food and other provision.


He made an appointment to meet relevant personnel in the English Army..and yes, they had hundreds of thousands of Second World War blankets at throw-away prices ! Wapa proceeded in the correspondence with Pakistani contacts...and what finally eventuated was....that Vadood Careem made a profit of.....wait for it !  about 50,000 English Pounds...in 1950 !


And so, he told me that...he made 50,000 English Pounds, punching the keys of an old typewriter!
I shall take you to Fort Galle...and Vadood Careem's arrival at 'Pakistan' house..in my next blog.









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