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Multan was a very familiar place for me and I settled instantly. The old saying is that Multan has plenty of dust (gard), heat (garma), dervish/faqeer (gada) and graves/Mazars (goristan). I knew already as I had lived here four years earlier, and I had been coming here almost every week. Multan has lots of history and culture which you can enjoy if you spend time here.
I did not have a permanent abode. I stayed with Javed Akhtar (now Rising Stars fame) for a short while. I also shared a house with a very fine person for some time. It is my privilege to introduce Riaz Najmi here. RN was working in MSD (Merck Sharp Dohme) as MR.
Palmistry, the so-called science of hand-shapes and palm-lines, describes that people having long fingers are highly detail-oriented. RN is a living proof of it. If you are listening to an old Indian song, RN can tell you who sang it, who wrote it, who composed it, which movie it came from, the actor(s) on whom it was picturized. Enough? Or you need more? RN can enlighten you on many other subjects also.
RN is obviously organized due to his orientation to detail. Some time though, it may affect reaction-time and relation to big-picture. Another great thing about him is that he keeps track of all friends and connects them when the need arises. I used to think I was calm, but after knowing RN, I realized I was probably impulsive. RN is liked universally, and it is a compliment to his selflessness and ability to do good. Riaz is a dear friend and I pray for his health and happiness.
Another great guy was Qamar uz Zaman. He was an ever-smiling, delightful person and enjoyable company. QZ worked for Reckitt & Colman Pharma from the beginning till it became Reckitt Benckiser and Pharma was spun off. He shifted to Lahore with family and then lived in Karachi for many years, and remained part of our core friends till his sudden death in 2015.
There were many senior people, who acted more like equals. Shahid Bashir with his smiling face and cutting satire (later a big distributor), Nasim Asghar Siddiqi with his respectful seriousness, Rao Sabir with his Rajput-ness, Sabir Ali with humility and politeness (now more active on facebook), Sheikh Hamid (late) with his salesmanship, Nawazish Jaffery with his dark humor, Shamshad Latafat Khan – the great Kunwar, Faizullah Khan – the happy cynic, and many more.
Multan was the only city with a ‘Pharma Club’. It was housed in a rented place and had the facilities of table tennis, badminton, daily newspapers, tv and card table. The admission was open to all pharma colleagues. The place was open in the late afternoon/evening. People came and went, if they had time. It was a good initiative and kept functioning for many years, thanks to few dedicated gentlemen.
Outside work, Iftikhar (IQ) and I spent the most time together. We read the same books, listened to the same music and carried many similar views. I knew his family and part of his extended family. IQ and his cousin fell into a relationship. She was a very refined, delicate person. Somewhat hypersensitive, but a solid, dependable person. I knew both and was some times caught in cross fire; wars being inevitable in a romantic relation. They married and have a lovely family. She is extremely respectable and affectionate and is still as intense as she was at a young age. I pray for her health and happy life.
Working at Multan was easily manageable. Business was doing fine, but the team in-fighting continued. Many times, I have recalled events of that time and tried to understand the core issue(s). With the benefit of hindsight, I understand more now and shall discuss in the next blog.
We were having problem with launch of Frisium as the results were below expectation. More products were launched in quick succession. Esperson (desoximetasone), a steroid cream/ointment, Haemaccel (polygeline), plasma substitute; Recresal (vitamins etc), a tonic was among these. It might have been a desperate attempt to compensate for the rather dismal results of Frisium.
Esperson and Haemaccel also went against trends of that time.
Steroid topical preparations always came as Cream and Ointment; cream for normal/wet skin, and ointment for dry skin. Esperson claimed it worked both ways with the same base. The idea was not accepted by doctors. Esperson finally died.
Plasma market was entirely dominated by Dextran. These were high molecular weight plasma-expanders. Hemaccel claimed to be low molecular weight plasma-substitute. The difference was critical but not communicated well enough. Haemaccel did not do well. It was re-launched in 1985-86, and became a block-buster.
The toll was showing on everyone and everywhere……