Year 1982. I was in Karachi with Mike (Dr. Michael Halse, my guru). We were members the Pakistan Dairy Sector Review Mission fielded by the World Bank and led by Dr. V. Kurien.
The evening we reached Karachi, Mike told me that he had a call from the principal of his high school in London just a couple of days before our leaving India for Pakistan. The principal invited him for ‘The old boys’ meet scheduled later that year in London. Mike also told him that he is going to Pakistan in the next two days and will be out there for a month.
His principal asked him, ‘Are you going to visit Karachi?’
‘Yes’ Mike replied.
To this his principal made an unusual request, ‘While in Karachi, can you look for a man by the name Cowasji/ Kowasji? He was a student of our school during the same period you were in the school. He was probably a couple of years your senior and was a very good cricket player’.
The principal didn’t know his full name, address or phone number.
So, Mike asked me, ‘RK, how do we try looking for this man? I have never met him or heard of him, but I did promise my principal that I would try and look for him while I am in Karachi’.
I suggested that since we are here for a week, we will scan through the telephone directory and call a few numbers every evening. ‘After all how many Cowasjis/ Kowasjis are likely to be listed in- 20, 25 may be 30 at max’. I said.
And this looked quite doable.
So, the next thing we did was to open the directory and make a beginning. We first decided to go through names listed under C, call them first and then go to names listed under K.
I opened the directory, went to the listing and found that there were nearly three pages full of Cowasji and the listing was in two columns on each page. ‘That’s hell of a lot of Cowasjis. Karachi seems to be full of them’. Mike exclaimed and continued, ‘I hope we don’t have as many listed under K. Looks like we will spend all seven days looking for this cricketeer Cowasji’.
We anyway decided to begin the search with the first Cowasji entry under C. We didn’t even bother to go to the listing under K lest that dampens our spirit.
I called the first number. A gentleman from the other side picked the phone and said, ‘Hello, Cowasji speaking. May I help you’?
I introduced myself and said that I am from India and that my English friend is looking for one of his school seniors who studied in England during the late ‘40s and who played cricket. He now lives in Karachi. Sir do you know that Cowasji?’
‘I am sorry, I don’t and I can’t help you’ and he disconnected.
I called the sixth number. ‘Cowasji &Co’. How can I help you’?
Cowasjee family of Karachi
I tried the second number but no luck. I tried 3rd, 4th, 5th numbers and no luck. I then told Mike, I am going to call the last number for the day. If we are not in luck today, we will go for dinner and then try tomorrow from the next number onwards. He agreed.
‘I don’t know him, but if you call ‘Cowasji, Cowasji, Cowasji, Cowasji & Co, they maybe able to help’. He gave us the number of the ‘all Cowasji company’.
Since we had the number, we in our wisdom decided to immediately call this number.
‘Cowasji, Cowasji, Cowasji, Cowasji & Co’. How can I help you?
For the last time, I repeated the request. ‘Oh, I guess I know him. I’ll give you a number. Call him, he MAY be the man you are looking for.
I hesitantly called this number.
‘Hellos, Cowasji here. May I know who is calling’?
I repeated the story.
‘Oh, did you also study in that school’? He asked me. I said, ‘I didn’t but this friend of mine who is with me right now was in that school during the same time you were there’..
‘I will be very happy to meet you and your friend tomorrow. Where are you staying’?
I gave him our hotel address and room numbers. I then handed the phone to Mike. They had a nostalgic conversation for next 25 minutes or so. Mike was very very happy to locate ‘The Cowasji’.
Next evening Cowasji came to meet us at the hotel with his wife.
‘She is my wife-second’ he said, and she promptly added ‘and he is my husband-third’.
That was a happy ending to our search for ‘The Cowasji’ in Karachi on the first day itself. It was quite an interesting experience.