During early days in Bahawalpur, someone mentioned about The Central Library. It had been established long time ago, in the time of State. I went to the library and found that Jalal Ashraf was the Chief Librarian. JA used to be librarian in our college. I didn’t know he had switched to TCL. JA was extremely kind, and he and his staff became my reading mentors. They would recommend books, hold books for me and give me access to sit and read reference books which could not be issued. I had the best reading in that time. I slept late and little. Nights, traveling hours and whenever I could, I would read. I still wish I could read more.

Life in Bahawalpur was a great time. Work was enjoyable and rewarding. I regained my reputation and credibility. SK Manzar, who had been elevated to the NSM position, visited Bahawalpur once in my time. He was very happy to see my work and said so.

Life was routine. One week in Bahawalpur, and one week in Rahimyar Khan. While in Bahawalpur, work in BVH in the morning and visit consultants in the evening. I never felt burdened and truly enjoyed work.

Rahimyar Khan district is 120km from Bahawalpur. It was about the same size but more affluent. It was also near the southern Sindh province. RYK had three main towns; RYK itself, Sadiqabad – 30km to south, and Khanpur – 48km to north. Sadiqabad was nearer to Sindh and you could see populations and languages mixing. RYK district contributed more than 50% to my business; hence very important.

Med reps came to RYK from Bahawalpur, Multan and Sukkur, stayed the week and visited Sadiqabad, Khanpur and some other smaller towns. It was a great gathering. As was customary in those days, med reps preferred to stay in the same hotel. It made great company and was occasion to go to dinner together, or sometimes, to movies. The chosen place in RYK at that time was Mubarak Hotel. It was a small hotel dominated entirely by Pharma people, who dictated and got the best possible service.

We all worked hard. Went early morning to other towns, came back and worked at RYK in the evening. We competed in business but were friends otherwise. We never faced any conflict-of-interest problem in carrying both.

Income was small, and so were the costs. When I started in 1975, my gross salary was Rs. 300/- per month. The daily working allowance was Rs. 9.00, while night-stay allowance was Rs. 18.00. It used to be plenty considering that Mubarak hotel charged Rs. 3.00 per night. You can imagine cost of food also.

On my first visit to Sadiqabad, I somehow thought it would be better to visit in the afternoon/evening rather than morning. And so, I reached Sadiqabad at about 5.00pm. It was peak summer time and the day was still very bright. I visited a pharmacy, Pakistan Medical Store around 6.30pm. The owner was a fine gentleman, Rasheed Arshad. He asked me if it was my first visit to Sadiqabad; I said yes. He said ‘you can not go back to RYK because the last bus would have left by now’. Sadiqabad is on the national highway but not on train track. I said I would stay in some hotel in that case. He said there was no hotel in Sadiqabad. Then he asked me not to worry. I could finish my work and come back to him; he would offer me stay in his house for the night. Extremely generous and truly magnanimous. I finished work and stayed the night in his house. In the morning, he insisted that I must take breakfast before leaving. How great.

A year earlier in Rawalpindi, I took a bus to go to Muzaffarabad AJK. It was winter, and it was late afternoon when I reached there. I had a light traveling bag and working bag and I went straight to market. The owner of the first pharmacy I visited, saw my bags and asked if I had just arrived, I said yes. He said, ‘please go and book the hotel first, otherwise you will not have a place to stay’. There were only two hotels in Muzaffarabad at that time; Gilani and Rainbow. Both were already full; Rainbow said I could share a room with a person if I wanted. I had no choice, so I accepted. Had the pharmacy owner not guided me, I would have a hard time on a long, cold night in a new town.

People generally were helpful and giving, and I must say I always received huge generosity from a very large number of people. I would love to mention all of them, but space and time limit me. I am eternally grateful to all of them.

People still are generally good, though various kinds of insecurities hinder their helpfulness. Personally, I do not subscribe to the theory that the world has gone awry and people have become monsters. Let Hollywood be obsessed with it, while we enjoy each other’s warmth, friendliness and generosity……

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