Javed Jabbar is no ordinary man and no ordinary father.
To catalogue his talents, roles and achievements is no easy task.
He is a writer, speaker, conservationist, former senator and minister, film-maker, documentarian, mass communications expert, intellectual, social activist, policy analyst and aficionado of all things sweet and chocolaty.
Our father is a man who may sleep, but never rests.
The indefatigability of his spirit is perhaps best manifested in this anecdote. He once landed in Karachi at midnight after a flight from Geneva. After barely forty winks, sped off at six in the morning; an eight-hour drive in the blistering June heat to attend a meeting of his development organisation in Nagarparkar. He has the uncanny (and enviable) ability to be as at ease with the Secretary General of the United Nations as he is with a village schoolboy in interior Sindh.
Books, films and music were ubiquitous in our universe. With books stacked from floor to ceiling, one could not help but absorb at least a hint of what they contained. We have never seen him without at least two to three books, which he reads simultaneously and with equal relish. Conversations with our father about his travels, be they about his experiences in monitoring elections in Namibia or leading a delegation to Guatemala, gave us a sense of wonder. Small talk with him is brief, because it magically transforms into an exchange of ideas and a discussion about the world around us.
The melodies of Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke and Hemant Kumar provided the soundtrack of our upbringing. Our musical appreciation was born with classical jazz and songs fromSouth-Asian films from the fifties and sixties, which he shares with our mother, Shabnam Jabbar.
One thing our father is not too adept at is dealing with household chores and issues. That formidable task has always been in the hands of our mother, an enterprising woman who has run our house with love, care and discipline.
Abba is a deeply loving and an affectionate man who believes in family. Often punctilious, manners are ever-important. We remember being told to stand up when elders enter a room, to say salaam and to be courteous and polite. He is a man with a hearty laugh, a booming voice and unremitting generosity.
Seneca once said that “it is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” Our father has travelled down this road. Our grandfather, Ahmed Abdul Jabbar was the Deputy Commissioner to the Nizam of Hyderabad Deccan when it was annexed in 1948. Narrowly avoiding execution, he left in haste for a fledgling Pakistan. A few years later, as a nine year-old boy, our father boarded a ship alone for Karachi and an unknown future.
From stateliness to deprivation, the fall was sudden, stark and lonely. With meagre resources and by the sheer strength of his discipline and talent, he worked his way through life’s many obstacles to reach the heights of greatness where he doesn’t rest today.