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The caller was Riaz Ahmed……
Abbott had a small office in Bank Square area in Lahore. Hoechst had its Pharma distribution and office on Napier road; quite near. The distribution officer was Riaz Ahmed, who became known to me through my colleague and friend in Abbott, Shabbir Shah.
I joined Abbott in Bahawalpur. My DFM was based in Multan and was also responsible for Faisalabad and Sargodha. Shabbir Hussain Shah was based at Sargodha as med rep. SHS was of medium height and build but kept a big moustache. And it looked very nice on him. He had somewhat unhappy childhood which made him high-strung and intense. He lost his younger brother due to chronic, progressive liver disease. He loved his brother and mourned deeply. He would become over-sensitive on some not-so-important things and would keep brooding. But he was refined and cultured and had good aesthetics. It was just a matter of time that we would become friends, which we did. SHS and I got promoted as DFM at the same time. He came to Faisalabad and I came to Lahore. We were in the same region and reported to the same manager.
SHS and I would have long talks whenever he came to Lahore for meetings. We talked about Abbott, immediate issues, our future in Abbott. I told SHS I was not Abbott stuff and I would leave. He said he would never leave Abbott, unless they threw him out.
SHS later became Sales Manager, was transferred to Rawalpindi and then Lahore. Finally, he left Abbott (without being thrown out) and joined Pharmagen/Beximco as NSM. SHS did the basic work for launching of Bangladesh company, Beximco, but he could not launch it.
Riaz Ahmed was an old buddy of SHS. Three of us met many times and for long times. We smoked heavily, drank a lot of tea and held strong views about too many things.
RA later joined Hoechst as med rep at Sargodha, was then promoted as Distribution Officer and transferred to Lahore.
One day Riaz called me to inform that Shabbir passed away due to liver failure. He had been hospitalized for a few days. My memories about him are vivid and sad. People like Shabbir are the joy of life and their early departure deeply hurts.
Riaz was transferred to Rawalpindi later. We met whenever we could and always talked about Shabbir.
Few years later, Riaz called me in the morning and said it was long time we didn’t talk, and he just wanted to say hello. We talked a little and reiterated to meet as soon as possible. Around noon, my phone rang again showing his number. This time, it was his younger brother who informed that Riaz had cardiac arrest and died on the spot hours ago.
Riaz had a son from an unhappy marriage, who was the focus of his life. He lived poorly to provide for his son with the best of everything. He sent him to Australia for higher studies. When Riaz passed away, his son had almost completed his studies.
This is extreme focus of life. May I dare say that it does not even allow to die before getting there?
One of my greatest losses is that of Saleem Afzal Bhutta, who passed away several years ago. SAB was introduced to me by Farhat Jamil. Soon, three of us met every day. FJ and I would go to his house and sat there even if he had not come back. His wife was extremely kind to us and we eternally owe her innumerable cups of tea, served with invaluable affection. This kept on for a long time. SAB was working for Fisons but later joined Beecham. Saleem also died of cardiac arrest, in a minute or less. I feel hurt and sad when I talk about him and it is still difficult to write much on him.
I also wish to mention Jalil Malik who was med rep in Abbott when I started in Hoechst. JM had previously worked for Parke-Davis. Many years and changes later, he was working as Head of Marketing & Sales in Star Laboratories Lahore. I got a call from him in the morning. He wanted to refer someone for some office job and we talked a bit. Two hours later, I again got a call from his number, but someone else was speaking. He told me that Jalil Malik had cardiac arrest and died in his office. The guy looked through his cell phone and was calling everyone on the contacts.
Frailty of life hits us hard and straight on these occasions. We kneel down, talk little, mourn more, and move on. We must keep moving anyway……